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Friday, June 21, 2013

A tiny wishlist for Amazon Web Services' Route 53

We've been using the DNS hosting service, Route 53, from Amazon Web Services (AWS). The default port for a DNS server is UDP (and TCP) 53, and I've always presumed that this was the answer to the question:  Why did Amazon name its DNS service Route 53?

In general I like the Route 53 service pretty well.  It's smart how the DNS servers listed for a Hosted Zone (the term AWS uses for a domain hosted in Route 53) reside in different top-level domains, like ORG, NET, COM, and even CO.UK. The UI in the AWS Management Console is fine for managing small zones that contain just a handful of records.

There's one feature that I wish Route 53 had, though, and it would be particularly useful, I think, to research organizations in higher education.

In our grants and contracts there is often a commitment to build, deploy, and operate some technology deliverable.  Often the technology is a web portal of some sort, and the investigator is keen to register a new domain.  This leads to an initial registration of something like:

WhizBangProject.org

The domain may have only the smallest number of records:  an SOA and NS records, of course, and then perhaps an MX record routing mail to a central server, and an A record pointing to the IPv4 address of the web portal.

Soon, though, the researcher may decide to register the same name in different top-level domains, and we have:

WhizBangProject.net
WhizBangProject.com
WhizBangProject.info

joining the mix.  These domains have EXACTLY the same records as the first one, and so if one is running his/her own DNS service, one can configure the DNS server to use the same zone file when loading all of the domains.  This is nice - one file with one set of records to manage for many different domains.

However, it is often the case that the investigator discovers that the original name is not satisfactory, and so we then register an alternate name in several domains:

CoolBeansResearch.org
CoolBeansResearch.net
CoolBeansResearch.com
CoolBeansResearch.info

and maybe a slight variant too:

Cool-Beans-Research.org
Cool-Beans-Research.net
Cool-Beans-Research.com
Cool-Beans-Research.info

In a world where one runs one's own DNS server, the additional domains are not much extra work.  Like the original solution where we pointed the new domains at the same zone file, we can just point these new domains at that same zone file.

I wish Route 53 would let me create a collection of what they call a Record Set, and then apply those same records to an arbitrary set of what they call Hosted Zones.  If the SOA and NS Record Sets were unique to each Hosted Zone, that would be OK; it is really the other records - the ones we add ourselves in Route 53 - that we would want to share across all of the Hosted Zones.

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