Recycling Ip Addresses with Apache

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System Administration

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original in en Atif Ghaffar 

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I live and work in Switzerland as a webmaster/unix administrator. My passions include, Linux, unix, Perl, Apache and GPL softwares. More about me can be found on my homepage

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This article demonstrates how to serve multiple virtual webservers using the same ip address with Apache on Unix/Linux. The article assumes that the reader has some knowledge of Apache and DNS and unix.
The target audience of this article is ISPs, System Administrator and anyone who cares to read and learn.

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Why should we recycle IP addresses?

Ip address recycling is useful for number of reasons.

  1. one can easily run out of ip addresses
  2. one might have only one ip address (as in my case)
  3. More system administrators time to add interfaces to host to use multiple ip addresses.

How to recycle ip adresses?

Using Apache it is simple to serve multiple domains with a single ip address.
For this article we will assume the ip address to be, and hostname hometranet.home.
Simply add a line like this to your httpd.conf file
Next we will add three virtual servers using the same ip address
#Host for unix files
	ServerName	unix.hometranet.home
	DocumentRoot	/www/unix/html
	ScriptAlias	/cgi-bin/ /www/unix/cgi-bin/
	TransferLog	/www/unix/logs/access_log
	ErrorLog	/www/unix/logs/error_log

#Host for perl stuff
	ServerName	perl.hometranet.home
	DocumentRoot	/www/perl/html
	ScriptAlias	/cgi-bin/ /www/perl/cgi-bin/
	TransferLog	/www/perl/logs/access_log
	ErrorLog	/www/perl/logs/error_log

#Here we host some cool Apache stuff
	ServerName	apache.hometranet.home
	DocumentRoot	/www/apache/html
	ScriptAlias	/cgi-bin/ /www/apache/cgi-bin/
	TransferLog	/www/apache/logs/access_log
	ErrorLog	/www/apache/logs/error_log

So using one ip address we have easily managed 3 different virtualhosts.

Next add CNAMES or A Records for these names in your nameserver's
zone file and dont forget to increment the serial number :)
for eg: in my /var/named/hometranet.home.fwd, I would add
perl.hometranet.home. IN A apache.hometranet.home. IN A unix.hometranet.home. IN A
Please note: If you call this host by any other name than the ones given in the virtual config then the first virtual host will respond.
Before Apache 1.3.x the last one would have had responded.
For eg: If this host is named madmag then calling http://madmag.hometranet.home will give you the same result as calling unix.hometranet.home.

Using wildcards, dynamic hostnames

This is the cool part. Apache allows wildcards to be used in hostanames.
Meaning you can set a domain *.home.hometranet.home and all queries to user1.home.hometranet.home, user2.home.hometranet.home, user3.home.hometranet.home,etc will be responded.

#host for users
	ServerName	home.hometranet.home
	ServerAlias     *.home.hometranet.home
        DocumentRoot	/www/home/html
	TransferLog	/www/home/logs/access_log
	ErrorLog	/www/home/logs/error_log

and an entry in the named zone file.

*.home.hometranet.home.  IN      A

Note: This trick will not work if you are using Microsoft DNS Server. Apparently it refuses to accept wildcards in hostnames.
(But you arent using one, are you??)
I once wrote a small system that allows users on the network to add their CV in the database, and using the above trick, their CVs were availabe by

My virtual hosts configuration file

Here is a bit more exhaustive configuration file that i have separated from my main httpd.conf file
This one is actually on my server.

To include this file in the main httpd.conf you can use the Include directive in your main httpd.conf.
Include "/etc/vhosts.conf"

Additional Resources

[Apache name-based Virtual Host Support]
[Apache Virtual Host documentation]
[An In-Depth Discussion of Virtual Host Matching]