Many customers are building multi-Region architectures on AWS. They might want to bring their systems closer to their end users, support disaster recovery (DR), or comply with data sovereignty requirements. Often, these architectures use Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) to host resources like Amazon EC2 instances, Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) databases, and AWS Lambda functions. Typically, these VPCs are also connected using VPC peering or AWS Transit Gateway.

Within these VPC networks, customers also use AWS PrivateLink to deploy VPC endpoints. These endpoints provide private connectivity between VPCs and AWS services. They also support endpoint policies that allow customers to implement guardrails. As an example, customers frequently use endpoint policies to ensure that only IAM principals in their AWS Organization are accessing resources from their networks.

The challenge some customers have faced is that VPC endpoints can only be used to access resources in the same Region as the endpoint. For example, an Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) VPC endpoint deployed in us-east-1 can only be used to access S3 buckets also located in us-east-1. To access a bucket in us-east-2, that traffic has to traverse the public internet. Ideally, customers want to keep this traffic within their private network and apply VPC endpoint policies, regardless of the Region where the resource is located.

Amazon Route 53 Resolver to the rescue

One of the ways we can solve this problem is with Amazon Route 53 Resolver. Route 53 Resolver provides inbound and outbound DNS services in a VPC. It allows you to resolve domain names for AWS resources in the Region where the resolver endpoint is deployed. It also allows you to forward DNS requests to other DNS servers based on rules you define. To consistently apply VPC endpoint policies to all traffic, we use Route 53 Resolver to steer traffic to VPC endpoints in each Region.

Figure 1. A multi-Region architecture with Route 53 Resolver and S3 endpoints

Figure 1. A multi-Region architecture with Route 53 Resolver and S3 endpoints

In this example shown in Figure 1, we have a workload that operates in us-east-1. It must access Amazon S3 buckets in us-east-2 and us-west-2. There is a VPC in each Region that is connected via VPC peering to the one in us-east-1. We’ve also deployed an inbound and outbound Route 53 Resolver endpoint in each VPC.

Finally, we also have Amazon S3 interface VPC endpoints in each VPC. These provide their own unique DNS names. They can be resolved to private IP addresses using VPC provided DNS (using the .2 address or 169.254.169.253 address) or the inbound resolver IP addresses.

When the EC2 instance accesses a bucket in us-east-1, the Route 53 Resolver endpoint resolves the DNS name to the private IP address of the VPC endpoint. However, without an outbound rule, a DNS query for a bucket in another Region like us-east-2 would resolve to the public IP address of the S3 service. To solve this, we’re going to add four outbound rules to the resolver in us-east-1.

  • us-west-2.amazonaws.com
  • us-west-2.vpce.amazonaws.com
  • us-east-2.amazonaws.com
  • us-east-2.vpce.amazonaws.com

These rules will forward the DNS request to the appropriate inbound Route 53 Resolver in the peered VPC. When there isn’t a VPC endpoint deployed for a service, the resolver will use its automatically created recursive rule to return the public IP address. Let’s look at how this works in Figure 2.

Figure 2. The workflow of resolving an out-of-Region S3 DNS name

Figure 2. The workflow of resolving an out-of-Region S3 DNS name

  1. The EC2 instance runs a command to list a bucket in us-east-2. The DNS request first goes to the local Route 53 Resolver endpoint in us-east-1.
  2. The Route 53 Resolver in us-east-1 has an outbound rule matching the bucket’s domain name. This forwards all DNS queries for the domain us-east-2.vpce.amazonaws.com to the inbound Route 53 Resolver in us-east-2.
  3. The Route 53 Resolver in us-east-2 responds with the private IP address of the S3 interface VPC endpoint in its VPC. This is then returned to the EC2 instance.
  4. The EC2 instance sends the request to the S3 interface VPC endpoint in us-east-2.

This pattern can be easily extended to support any Region that your organization uses. Add additional VPCs in those Regions to host the Route 53 Resolver endpoints and VPC endpoints. Then, add additional outbound resolver rules for those Regions. You can also support additional AWS services by deploying VPC endpoints for them in each peered VPC that hosts the inbound Route 53 Resolver endpoint.

This architecture can be extended to provide a centralized capability to your entire business instead of supporting a single workload in a VPC. We’ll look at that next.

Scaling cross-Region VPC endpoints with Route 53 Resolver

In Figure 3, each Region has a centralized HTTP proxy fleet. This is located in a dedicated VPC with AWS service VPC endpoints and a Route 53 Resolver endpoint. Each workload VPC in the same Region connects to this VPC over Transit Gateway. All instances send their HTTP traffic to the proxies. The proxies manage resolving domain names and forwarding the traffic to the correct Region. Here, each Route 53 Resolver supports inbound DNS requests from other VPCs. It also has outbound rules to forward requests to the appropriate Region. Let’s walk through how this solution works.

Figure 3. Using Route 53 Resolver endpoints with central HTTP proxies

Figure 3. Using Route 53 Resolver endpoints with central HTTP proxies

  1. The EC2 instance in us-east-1 runs a command to list a bucket in us-east-2. The HTTP request is sent to the proxy fleet in the same Region.
  2. The proxy fleet attempts to resolve the domain name of the bucket in us-east-2. The Route 53 Resolver in us-east-1 has an outbound rule for the domain us-east-2.vpce.amazonaws.com. This rule forwards the DNS query to the inbound Route 53 Resolver in us-east-2. The Route 53 Resolver in us-east-2 responds with the private IP address of the S3 interface endpoint in its VPC.
  3. The proxy server sends the request to the S3 interface endpoint in us-east-2 over the Transit Gateway connection. VPC endpoint policies are consistently applied to the request.

This solution (Figure 3) scales the previous implementation (Figure 2) to support multiple workloads across all of the in-use Regions. And it does this without duplicating VPC endpoints in every VPC.

If your environment doesn’t use HTTP proxies, you could alternatively deploy Route 53 Resolver outbound endpoints in each workload VPC. In this case, you have two options. The outbound rules can forward the DNS requests directly to the cross-Region inbound resolver, like in the Figure 2. Or, there can be a single outbound rule to forward the DNS requests to a central inbound resolver in the same Region (see Figure 3). The first option reduces dependencies on a centralized service. The second option provides reduced management overhead of the creation and updates to outbound rules.

Conclusion

Customers want a straightforward way to use VPC endpoints and endpoint policies for all Regions uniformly and consistently. Route 53 Resolver provides a solution using DNS. This ensures that requests to AWS services that support VPC endpoints stay within the VPC network, regardless of their Region.

Check out the documentation for Route 53 Resolver to learn more about how you can use DNS to simplify using VPC endpoints in multi-Region architectures.

Categories: Architecture