The DNS servers that altogether implement the DNS distributed database store resource records (RRs), including RRs that provide hostname-to-IP address mappings. Each DNS reply message carries one or more resource records. In this and the following subsections, we provide a brief overview of DNS resource records and messages .
A resource record is a four-tuple that contains the following fields:
(Name, Value, Type, TTL)
TTL is the time to live of the resource record; it determines when a resource should be removed from a cache. In the example records given below, we ignore the TTL field. The meaning of Name and Value depend on Type:
- If Type=A, then Name is a hostname and Value is the IP address for the hostname. Thus, a Type A record provides the standard hostname-to-IP address mappings. As an example, (relay1.bar.foo.com, 37.93.126, A) is a Type A record.
- If Type=NS, then Name is a domain (such as foo.com) and Value is the host name of an authoritative DNS server that knows how to obtain the IP address for hosts in the domain. This record is used to route DNS queries further along in the query chain. As an example, (foo.com, dns.foo.com, NS) is Type NS record.
- If Type=CNAME, then Value is a canonical hostname for the alias hostname Name. This record can provide querying hosts the canonical name for a hostname. As an example, (foo.com, relay1.bar.foo.com, CNAME) is a CNAME record.
- If Type=MX, then Value is the canonical name of a mail server that has an alias hostname Name. As an example, (foo.com, mail.bar.foo.com, MX) is an MX record. MX records allow the hostnames of mail servers to have simple aliases. Note that by using the MX record, a company can have the same aliased name for its mail server ad for one of its other servers (such as its Web server). To obtain the canonical name for the mail server, a DNS client would query for an MX record; to obtain the canonical name for the other server, the DNS client would query for the CNAME record.
If a DNS server is authoritative for a particular hostname, then the DNS server will contain a Type A record for the hostname.(Even if the DNS server is not authoritative, it may contain a Type A record in its cache). If a server is not authoritative for a hostname; it will also contain a Type A record that provides the IP address of the DNS server in the Value field of the NS record. As an example, suppose an edu TLD server is not authoritative for the host gaia.cs.unmass.edu. Then this server will contain a record for a domain that includes the host gaia.cs.umass.edu, for example, (umass.edu, dns.umass.edu, NS). The edu TLD server would also contain a Type A record, which maps the DNS server dns.umass.edu to an IP address, for example, (dns.umass.edu, 22.214.171.124, A).