Development environments are probably one of the fastest changing things in the world of software development. Every quarter comes with a new technology, and sometimes it seems as if switching to a new stack is more important than improving the current one.
I’m a huge fan of Docker since day one. It helps me to build everything I need on my local machine. If we skip the part with downloading images and dependencies for my applications, I can fully work offline with all kinds of scenarios and architecture setups.
But still, there are some cases where you need to be online if you want to completely test your code. Let’s imagine a payment provider sending webhooks to your local machine. Mollie for instance, allows you to specify individual webhook URLs for each payment. If local machines would be online, every developer could work in parallel locally with a 100% accuracy when it comes to testing real payment flows.
Or what about the Shopware App system? Let’s say you use a 3rd party app that communicates in both ways, so also back to your shop! How can you even run that locally? Not possible, right? Does that mean you cannot use Shopware Apps locally?
The solution for this is easy, and it’s called a tunnel service.
There are many of them and some only give you random domains.
If you know me, then you know that I’m a huge fan of preparing nice plug’n’play systems where everything just works out of the box. And random domains are not really plug’n’play, right?
That’s why I’ve developed SquadDNS (https://www.squad-dns.com).
But let’s first start with the basics.
What are tunnel services?
Tunnel services like Ngrok and Cloudflare Tunnel play a crucial role in modern IT development by providing secure connections between local development environments and the internet.
These services act as intermediaries, allowing developers to expose their locally hosted applications or services to the outside world through secure tunnels.
Ngrok, a widely used tunnel service, simplifies the process of accessing local development servers or applications remotely with its intuitive setup and support for HTTP, HTTPS, and TCP tunnels.
Cloudflare Tunnel, on the other hand, leverages the powerful Cloudflare network to establish secure connections, offering enhanced performance, scalability, and integration with other Cloudflare services.
By using tunnel services, developers can easily test webhooks, APIs, and external integrations on their local setups, saving time and resources while maintaining data security.
What is SquadDNS?
Tunnel services such as Ngrok and Cloudflare come with a paid, or with a limited free plan. The free plans usually only give you a random domain at the time when you start them.
When you have development setups for multiple developers in your team, you usually want to have easy and plug’n’play setups that just work for every use case. The use case “go public” for webhooks or Shopware apps however is not possible if you only have a random domain.
This is why I’ve created SquadDNS. It helps you to use fixed, personal and static domains for your developers, no matter what kind of tunnel service you are using (if any).
SquadDNS is a DNS proxy that forwards requests to your static domain through the tunnel service of your choice.
How does it work?
SquadDNS comes as an easy Docker image. All you need is a server where Docker is installed. The good thing is, It’s your personal setup, and you have full control over your data and records.
Once installed, you first need to create (sub)domains for your developers. This is usually done by using the DNS management of your domain provider (e.g. Cloudflare). The target of your domains should be the IP address of your server where SquadDNS is running.
As soon as your domains exist, you can add them to SquadDNS. And this is where the magic happens.
When your developer starts a tunnel, the (random) domain of the tunnel service can be easily added as target to the developer domain in SquadDNS.
When a request is now done to the developer domain, the domain provider will forward all requests to your SquadDNS server, and SquadDNS will forward them to the mapped target domain of your current tunnel service of choice.
It’s as simple as that.
Is this really new?
The idea itself is not new, but the way how it can be managed is indeed a benefit for teams. So SquadDNS focuses on the team aspect and not on the individual developer. And it comes with way more features.
One of the benefits is indeed the easy UX for team members. Open the domain list, update your target and click on update. In just a few seconds your tunnel is reachable.
If you want to restrict access to your system, there is also an easy solution. By enabling the “authentication options” for a specific domain, the access is automatically secured by the proxy.
By default Basic Authentication is being used. And the great thing, all users of the SquadDNS system do already have access. This is why it’s also possible to add guest users to the system. So if you want to share your local environment with a customer or your QA team, just open a tunnel, optionally create a new guest user, and you’re done.
In addition to this, it’s possible to allow a list of IP addresses to access the domain. If the IP address matches, then the authentication is skipped. If not, it uses Basic Authentication as fallback.
There’s also plenty of documentation and step-by-step tutorials on the website. When creating setups like these, half of the part is the product, the other half is the skill and knowledge, which is clearly explained in the documentation.
You’ll learn how to build easy setups with Shopware, how NGINX configurations work, how to use the special SQUADDNS_HOST header entry and way more.
Even though we live in a world where Docker allows us to do almost anything on our machine, there are still some scenarios where you need to be online. Tunnel services are a great way to achieve this, but they come with some limitations.
With the help of SquadDNS, you can easily manage your domains and tunnel services in one place. Create automated scripts that use your personal and static developer domains, and help your team to be more productive with ready to use setups.
And if you want to restrict access to your system, you can easily do this with the built-in authentication options.