Moving to Route 53

I’ve run my own nameservers for years. A decade or two ago, setting up a DNS was a fun way to learn how bits of the internet worked; I even hosted backup name services for a couple friends. While nothing here is really broken, I’ve begun using Amazon’s CloudFront and need to make a change. CloudFront (Amazon’s web caching system) uses a randomly-generated hostname and dynamic set of IP addresses, so if you want a static name in your own domain you’ll either need to use a CNAME record or host the domain’s nameserver with Route 53. Unfortunately, since I’d like to have the toplevel of my domain (e.g., point to a CloudFront address, the CNAME option is right out. CNAME records aren’t really allowed for a domain, and can cause all sorts of practical problems.

Setting up a Route 53 DNS host was extremely easy - just go to the Route 53 dashboard, hit Create Hosted Zone, and fill out the (short) form. I just imported my zone config file verbatim (click the new hosted domain name in the list, then Import Zone File, and paste your existing content in the dialog box that appears). AWS automatically changed my NS and SOA records to match their servers and imported everything else (even the AAAA records). Once the hosted domains were in Route 53, all I had to do was navigate to my registrar (Dotster, for now) and enter Amazon’s provided nameservers instead of my own. After the TTL expired, my names began serving from Amazon’s infrastructure.

With all the plumbing re-routed, adding the CloudFront linkage was pretty simple. The only less-than-obvious piece was the Alias radio button in the Create Record Set interface; changing this from “No” to “Yes” changes the form, and provides a list of alias targets (CloudFront distributions, S3 buckets, and Elastic Load Balancers/IPs) to choose from. Save Record Set, and now you’ve got a geographically-distributed, highly redundant infrastructure for serving a low-traffic blog. Nice!