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Connection Routing

DNS resolution

When requesting a connection to a host, the IP of that host must be determined. Telepresence provides DNS resolvers to help with this task. There are currently four types of resolvers but only one of them will be used on a workstation at any given time. Common for all of them is that they will propagate a selection of the host lookups to be performed in the cluster. The selection normally includes all names ending with .cluster.local or a currently mapped namespace but more entries can be added to the list using the includeSuffixes or mappings option in the cluster DNS configuration

Cluster side DNS lookups

The cluster side host lookup will be performed by a traffic-agent in the connected namespace, or by the traffic-manager if no such agent exists.

macOS resolver

This resolver hooks into the macOS DNS system by creating files under /etc/resolver. Those files correspond to some domain and contain the port number of the Telepresence resolver. Telepresence creates one such file for each of the currently mapped namespaces and include-suffixes option. The file telepresence.local contains a search path that is configured based on current intercepts so that single label names can be resolved correctly.

Linux systemd-resolved resolver

This resolver registers itself as part of telepresence's VIF using systemd-resolved and uses the DBus API to configure domains and routes that corresponds to the current set of intercepts and namespaces.

Linux overriding resolver

Linux systems that aren't configured with systemd-resolved will use this resolver. A Typical case is when running Telepresence inside a docker container. During initialization, the resolver will first establish a fallback connection to the IP passed as --dns, the one configured as local-ip in the local DNS configuration, or the primary nameserver registered in /etc/resolv.conf. It will then use iptables to actually override that IP so that requests to it instead end up in the overriding resolver, which unless it succeeds on its own, will use the fallback.

Windows resolver

This resolver uses the DNS resolution capabilities of the win-tun device in conjunction with Win32_NetworkAdapterConfiguration SetDNSDomain.

DNS caching

The Telepresence DNS resolver often changes its configuration. Telepresence will not flush the host's DNS caches. Instead, all records will have a short Time To Live (TTL) so that such caches evict the entries quickly. This causes increased load on the Telepresence resolver (shorter TTL means more frequent queries) and to cater for that, telepresence now has an internal cache to minimize the number of DNS queries that it sends to the cluster. This cache is flushed as needed without causing instabilities.



The Telepresence traffic-manager service is responsible for discovering the cluster's service subnet and all subnets used by the pods. In order to do this, it needs permission to create a dummy service[2] in its own namespace, and the ability to list, get, and watch nodes and pods. Most clusters will expose the pod subnets as podCIDR in the Node while others, like Amazon EKS, don't. Telepresence will then fall back to deriving the subnets from the IPs of all pods. If you'd like to choose a specific method for discovering subnets, or want to provide the list yourself, you can use the podCIDRStrategy configuration value in the helm chart to do that.

The complete set of subnets that the VIF will be configured with is dynamic and may change during a connection's life cycle as new nodes arrive or disappear from the cluster. The set consists of what that the traffic-manager finds in the cluster, and the subnets configured using the also-proxy configuration option. Telepresence will remove subnets that are equal to, or completely covered by, other subnets.

Connection origin

A request to connect to an IP-address that belongs to one of the subnets of the VIF will cause a connection request to be made in the cluster. As with host name lookups, the request will originate from a traffic-agent in the connected namespace, of by the traffic-manager when no agent is present.

There are multiple reasons for doing this. One is that it is important that the request originates from the correct namespace. Example:

results in a http request with header Host: some-host. Now, if a service-mesh like Istio performs header based routing, then it will fail to find that host unless the request originates from the same namespace as the host resides in. Another reason is that the configuration of a service mesh can contain very strict rules. If the request then originates from the wrong pod, it will be denied. Only one intercept at a time can be used if there is a need to ensure that the chosen pod is exactly right.

Recursion detection

It is common that clusters used in development, such as Minikube, Minishift or k3s, run on the same host as the Telepresence client, often in a Docker container. Such clusters may have access to host network, which means that both DNS and L4 routing may be subjected to recursion.

DNS recursion

When a local cluster's DNS-resolver fails to resolve a hostname, it may fall back to querying the local host network. This means that the Telepresence resolver will be asked to resolve a query that was issued from the cluster. Telepresence must check if such a query is recursive because there is a chance that it actually originated from the Telepresence DNS resolver and was dispatched to the traffic-manager, or a traffic-agent.

Telepresence handles this by sending one initial DNS-query to resolve the hostname "tel2-recursion-check.kube-system". If the cluster runs locally, and has access to the local host's network, then that query will recurse back into the Telepresence resolver. Telepresence remembers this and alters its own behavior so that queries that are believed to be recursions are detected and respond with an NXNAME record. Telepresence performs this solution to the best of its ability, but may not be completely accurate in all situations. There's a chance that the DNS-resolver will yield a false negative for the second query if the same hostname is queried more than once in rapid succession, that is when the second query is made before the first query has received a response from the cluster.


1: The error message from an attempt to create a service in a bad subnet contains the service subnet. The trick of creating a dummy service is currently the only way to get Kubernetes to expose that subnet.