Using Multicast DNS in small networks

Maintaining static DNS zones in an environment where new machines are often connected/disconnected/installed/removed is rather troublesome. Most home networks can be qualified as such environments. How to manage resolving of host names in a less annoying way? One easy solution is implementing Multicast DNS (also known as mDNS).

My network consists of a mixture of Linux, OS X, iOS and NetBSD devices.

Typical UNIX implementation of mDNS consists of two components:

In some operating systems these two are completely separate and can work independent (i.e. one can have a responder but no resolver configured, or the other way).

Multicast DNS uses a special domain called “local”. Host names are automatically registered in this domain.

Configuring mDNS in OS X and iOS

No action is required. Multicast DNS is supported out of the box. On OS X the host name registered in mDNS is always the name set in System Preferences -> Sharing -> Computer Name.

You can confirm it is working by pinging this name in local domain:

$ ping osxbox.local

If the host name contains spaces (which is never a good thing), substitute them with - character.

Configuring mDNS in Linux

The responder is implemented by Avahi service, which is already a part of all recent distributions. The resolver is implemented as additional nsswitch module mdns, which unfortunately is not included in RHEL/CentOS. Without this module only applications that use Avahi API are able to resolve mDNS host names. However, mdns module can be installed from EPEL repository (so be sure to enable it first). The package is called nss-mdns.

This example is specific to RHEL/CentOS 7, but most Linux distributions use the same components.

Before starting be sure that your machine has locally configured host name:

# hostnamectl status | grep Static

If it returns n/a, set the hostname to your FQDN:

# hostnamectl set-hostname 

Next, install the necessary packages:

# yum -y install avahi nss-mdns

# systemctl start avahi-daemon

# systemctl enable avahi-daemon

Next, enable the mdns module in /etc/nsswitch.conf by modifying the hosts: line:

hosts: files mdns_minimal [NOTFOUND=return] dns mdns

If you’re using IPv4 only, then use mdns4_minimal and mdns4 instead.

That’s it! You should be able to resolve your own name in local domain now:

# getent hosts foobar.local	foobar.local

Configuring mDNS in NetBSD

Check if your host name is correctly configured:

# hostname

If not, then be sure to set it:

# echo '' >> /etc/rc.conf

# /etc/rc.d/network restart

All the necessary components are included in base system installation since NetBSD 6.0. The mdnsd service is the same mDNSResponder implementation as used on OS X and iOS.

# echo 'mdnsd=YES' >> /etc/rc.conf

# /etc/rc.d/mdnsd start

Additional nsswitch module also needs to be enabled, to support resolving host names using mDNS. Edit the hosts: line in /etc/nsswitch.conf to include mdnsd module:

hosts: files dns mdnsd

You’re done. Testing can be done with the getent command just as on Linux:

# getent hosts xyzzy.local	xyzzy.local

Firewall considerations

Your firewall configuration must allow incoming traffic on UDP port 5353. Remember that if you use both IPv4 and IPv6, this port needs to be enabled for both IP protocols. For IPv4, mDNS uses multicast address, for IPv6 [FF02::FB].