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Date: Fri, 13 Sep 2019 14:19:48 +0000
From: "Andrey Arapov" <>
To: "Rich Felker" <>,
Subject: Re: DNS FQDN query issue in musl starting 1.1.13

Hello Rich,

thank you for your prompt reply.

I agree that SERVFAIL must be reported as an error to the caller and have just realized
that "ucp-controller.kube-system.svc.cluster.local" has only 4 ndots, hence it isn't
tried unless a trailing (5th) dot was specified,
e.g. "ucp-controller.kube-system.svc.cluster.local.".

Probably one of the differences is that, I presume, glibc treats a domain name terminated
by a length byte of zero (RFC1035 3.1 Name space definitions), hence resolving the FQDN
with only 4 dots whilst 5 is set.
Please correct me if I am wrong.

Regarding usage constraints, it looks like that the whole point having the ndots > 1 is
basically to make the internal cluster lookups faster (the more dots the faster) while
cache the external DNS lookups so they are slow the first time but fast subsequently.

But having ndots = 1 to workaround the musl's unexpected behavior (when ndots > 1) is
making all intra-cluster lookups slower, whilst upstream FQDN faster.

After reading through the discussions it turns out that in the beginning people resorted
to using the Kubernetes's dnsConfig for setting the ndots to 1 (default) as a workaround
but later then they did not need that anymore as Kubernetes/CoreDNS dropped Alpine
(not sure for what reasons though).

I guess the whole point is that the projects using musl C library (>=1.1.13)
should clearly make people aware of that difference in hostname lookups
which cause unexpected behavior compared to the glibc.

Below is some brief story-line I gathered which might be handy to anyone reading this.

### September-December 2016/2017

> - "We're smart enough to solve this for everyone" is not realistic. (c) BrianGallew

The rationale for having ndots=5 is explained at length at #33554


### June-August 2018 ... April 2019

People are struggling with this issue as upstream/downstream projects
updated (or switched to) their Alpine base distro to 3.4 (or higher with musl >= 1.1.13).

ndots breaks DNS resolving

Kubernetes pods /etc/resolv.conf ndots:5 option and why it may negatively affect your application performances

Docker: drop alpine

Rebase container images from alpine to debian-base.

Kind Regards,
Andrey Arapov

September 13, 2019 2:15 PM, "Rich Felker" <> wrote:

> On Fri, Sep 13, 2019 at 07:43:28AM +0000, Andrey Arapov wrote:
>> Hash: SHA256
>> Hello,
>> I've noticed that musl C lib starting 1.1.13 isn't trying to resolve the FQDN in the first place,
>> it rather tries <FQDN>.<search_domain_found_in_/etc/resolv.conf_file> first which is different to
>> how GNU
>> C library is working.
> This is only the case if fqdn contains fewer than ndots dots and does
> not end in a dot. This behavior should match all other resolvers.
>> Also, since musl C library is "never falling back to search, which glibc would do" according to
>> this poses an issue when DNS server is misconfigured.
>> For example, when DNS server is returning SERVFAIL (no SOA), the musl C is simply stopping from
>> attempting the FQDN.
> If one lookup ends in ServFail, it's indeterminate and must be
> reported as an error to the caller. Otherwise the successful result of
> a lookup yields different values depending on transient failure of a
> nameserver. This is dangerously wrong regardless of whether other
> implementations do it.
> This was all discussed (with people involved in the Docker-related
> projects using these kind of search tricks, as I remember it) at the
> time search was added. Addition of search was explicitly conditional
> on *not* reproducing buggy/dangerous behavior other implementations
> have.
>> So having a wrong record in the /etc/resolv.conf will cause musl C
>> resolver to break way too fast.
>> I was wondering whether this is an expected behavior or not? And can
>> this be changed in a way so musl C lib is trying the FQDN first?
> Don't set ndots>1. ndots>1 has all sorts of problems.
>> This behavior is making some people resort to using short hostnames instead of FQDNs, such as
>> ad-hoc patching ucp-metrics (Alpine based container) --
>> To expand the issue with the ucp-metrics:
>> So when resolv.conf is set to the following configuration:
>> nameserver
>> search kube-system.svc.cluster.local svc.cluster.local cluster.local
>> options ndots:5
>> An attempt to resolve the
>> ucp-controller.kube-system.svc.cluster.local will be rendered into
>> attempt to resolve the
>> in the first place.
>> Workaround people use in the wild is: ucp-controller.kube-system.svc.cluster.local =>
>> ucp-controller
>> I've already informed the Docker Support about this issue, they are
>> working on the knowledge base article regarding this issue, so
>> people are aware of this and can decide to rather fix their domain
>> search server (should they have an access/rights to) or resolv.conf
>> record.
> Ideally they just would not use ndots>1, since it necessarily yields
> this and lots of other problems (like extra round trips and timeout
> delay for each lookup, even if the lookup works). I'm not sure what to
> recommend as an alternative since I don't entirely understand the
> usage constraints here, but I know these issues were all known on the
> Docker and Kubernetes side back when search was first implemented in
> musl, and that folks understood that these uses of search domains with
> multiple components were a problem and planned to phase them out. I
> don't know what happened with that.
>> I think that this should be fixed since even having the good domain
>> search server is making the system prone to an error should the
>> domain search server fail (or partially fail, returning SERVFAIL/[no
>> SOA]) at any point of time.
> This is entirely intentional. If one of the servers fails, the
> application needs to know that it can't get a meaningful result for
> its query. Not silently get the wrong result.
> Rich

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