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API in DNS-Admin

July 13th, 2022 | by
Abstract representation of a programming interface based on shapes

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From now on, Application Programming Interface-Tokens (API-Tokens) simplify and automate the processes in DNS. Changes can now be easily accessed via the DNS admin using API tokens from a script or other software. One advantage that results from this: Time and clicks will be saved.

We have summarized for you what exactly is behind this and how the whole thing works.


What Is DNS?

The Domain Name System, or DNS for short, is one of the most important services of the Internet. The main task of the DNS is to translate IP addresses into domain names and vice versa. Without the DNS, for example, you would enter “134.130.122.58” instead of “blog.rwth-aachen.de” in the browser address bar to get to our blog. The DNS is therefore a small everyday savior, since we don’t have to remember a combination of numbers for any web page, but only the corresponding name of the page.

Besides translating IP addresses, however, the domain name system also has other important tasks, such as obtaining information about a domain name, or identifying itself as the owner of a particular domain name.

What Is DNS-Admin?

The DNS-Admin is a self-service-tool developed by the IT Center. It allows users to manage the domain name system of RWTH Aachen University. Access is available to all persons who are registered as the contact person for a domain and who have obtained the domain through us. In DNS-Admin, new entries for networks can be generated, existing entries can be adjusted or removed, and a complete view of all existing entries can be viewed. The DNS-Admin thus not only provides an opportunity for self-administration, but also relieves the IT center, which had to process all DNS requests by ticket before the development in 2016.

No Access to the DNS Admin Yet?

To get access to the DNS-Admin you have to be registered as a contact person for the domain, but you also have to get the right to use the DNS-Admin from our department. To do this, simply contact the IT-ServiceDesk by e-mail.

What Is an API?

An API, or Application Programming Interface, is an interface between 2 different software systems. Nowadays, a lot of things in programs and apps work with APIs. For example, if you want to send a message or look at your calendar on your smartphone in the Facebook app, this usually works via an API. You only see the user interface of the app, but in the background your entered data is sent to a server via API. This accepts the data and will process it further. In this case, the two communicating software systems are the app on the smartphone and the app operator’s server.

API in the DNS-Admin

Similar to an app, the API in the DNS-Admin offers users an additional option for managing their DNS records. Access is provided via the so-called API tokens. These are access data that users can generate themselves in order to use the API. In addition, documentation is also provided on possible commands that can be executed via the API.

The main use case of API tokens is the automation of processes in the DNS. For example, if you want to give a domain name to a new website or identify yourself as the owner of a domain, you used to have to call the DNS admin first and enter all the necessary data there. With the API it is now possible to call these steps for example from a script or other software. This saves time and many cumbersome clicks.

API Token Restrictions

The permissions here are identical to those in DNS- Admin. However, it is possible to restrict this further for an API token in order to ensure additional security. For example, the restriction to a sub-domain. As a further security measure, API tokens have a maximum validity period of one year. However, this can always be extended by another year at the end. If one should lose the access data, it is of course also possible to block and delete the token at any time.

Besides the DNS-Admin, there is also the possibility to use an API in some other self-service portals, like the DHCP Admin. In the future, it is also planned to equip other portals with an API in order to simplify the work for users.

Responsible for the content of this article are Janin Vreydal, Sara Erdem und Markus Dienstknecht.

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