Chapter 9. Using a VXLAN to create a virtual layer-2 domain for VMs

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A virtual extensible LAN (VXLAN) is a networking protocol that tunnels layer-2 traffic over an IP network using the UDP protocol. For example, certain virtual machines (VMs), that are running on different hosts can communicate over a VXLAN tunnel. The hosts can be in different subnets or even in different data centers around the world. From the perspective of the VMs, other VMs in the same VXLAN are within the same layer-2 domain:

vxlan tunnel

In this example, RHEL-host-A and RHEL-host-B use a bridge, br0, to connect the virtual network of a VM on each host with a VXLAN named vxlan10. Due to this configuration, the VXLAN is invisible to the VMs, and the VMs do not require any special configuration. If you later connect more VMs to the same virtual network, the VMs are automatically members of the same virtual layer-2 domain.


Just as normal layer-2 traffic, data in a VXLAN is not encrypted. For security reasons, use a VXLAN over a VPN or other types of encrypted connections.

9.1. Benefits of VXLANs

A virtual extensible LAN (VXLAN) provides the following major benefits:

  • VXLANs use a 24-bit ID. Therefore, you can create up to 16,777,216 isolated networks. For example, a virtual LAN (VLAN), supports only 4,096 isolated networks.
  • VXLANs use the IP protocol. This enables you to route the traffic and virtually run systems in different networks and locations within the same layer-2 domain.
  • Unlike most tunnel protocols, a VXLAN is not only a point-to-point network. A VXLAN can learn the IP addresses of the other endpoints either dynamically or use statically-configured forwarding entries.
  • Certain network cards support UDP tunnel-related offload features.

Additional resources

  • /usr/share/doc/kernel-doc-<kernel_version>/Documentation/networking/vxlan.rst provided by the kernel-doc package

9.2. Configuring the Ethernet interface on the hosts

To connect a RHEL VM host to the Ethernet, create a network connection profile, configure the IP settings, and activate the profile.

Run this procedure on both RHEL hosts, and adjust the IP address configuration accordingly.


  • The host is connected to the Ethernet.


  1. Add a new Ethernet connection profile to NetworkManager:

    # nmcli connection add con-name Example ifname enp1s0 type ethernet
  2. Configure the IPv4 settings:

    # nmcli connection modify Example ipv4.addresses ipv4.method manual ipv4.gateway ipv4.dns ipv4.dns-search

    Skip this step if the network uses DHCP.

  3. Activate the Example connection:

    # nmcli connection up Example


  1. Display the status of the devices and connections:

    # nmcli device status
    enp1s0      ethernet  connected  Example
  2. Ping a host in a remote network to verify the IP settings:

    # ping

    Note that you cannot ping the other VM host before you have configured the network on that host as well.

Additional resources

  • nm-settings(5) man page

9.3. Creating a network bridge with a VXLAN attached

To make a virtual extensible LAN (VXLAN) invisible to virtual machines (VMs), create a bridge on a host, and attach the VXLAN to the bridge. Use NetworkManager to create both the bridge and the VXLAN. You do not add any traffic access point (TAP) devices of the VMs, typically named vnet* on the host, to the bridge. The libvirtd service adds them dynamically when the VMs start.

Run this procedure on both RHEL hosts, and adjust the IP addresses accordingly.


  1. Create the bridge br0:

    # nmcli connection add type bridge con-name br0 ifname br0 ipv4.method disabled ipv6.method disabled

    This command sets no IPv4 and IPv6 addresses on the bridge device, because this bridge works on layer 2.

  2. Create the VXLAN interface and attach it to br0:

    # nmcli connection add type vxlan slave-type bridge con-name br0-vxlan10 ifname vxlan10 id 10 local remote master br0

    This command uses the following settings:

    • id 10: Sets the VXLAN identifier.
    • local Sets the source IP address of outgoing packets.
    • remote Sets the unicast or multicast IP address to use in outgoing packets when the destination link layer address is not known in the VXLAN device forwarding database.
    • master br0: Sets this VXLAN connection to be created as a port in the br0 connection.
    • ipv4.method disabled and ipv6.method disabled: Disables IPv4 and IPv6 on the bridge.

    By default, NetworkManager uses 8472 as the destination port. If the destination port is different, additionally, pass the destination-port <port_number> option to the command.

  3. Activate the br0 connection profile:

    # nmcli connection up br0
  4. Open port 8472 for incoming UDP connections in the local firewall:

    # firewall-cmd --permanent --add-port=8472/udp
    # firewall-cmd --reload


  • Display the forwarding table:

    # bridge fdb show dev vxlan10
    2a:53:bd:d5:b3:0a master br0 permanent
    00:00:00:00:00:00 dst self permanent

Additional resources

  • nm-settings(5) man page

9.4. Creating a virtual network in libvirt with an existing bridge

To enable virtual machines (VM) to use the br0 bridge with the attached virtual extensible LAN (VXLAN), first add a virtual network to the libvirtd service that uses this bridge.


  • You installed the libvirt package.
  • You started and enabled the libvirtd service.
  • You configured the br0 device with the VXLAN on RHEL.


  1. Create the ~/vxlan10-bridge.xml file with the following content:

     <forward mode="bridge" />
     <bridge name="br0" />
  2. Use the ~/vxlan10-bridge.xml file to create a new virtual network in libvirt:

    # virsh net-define ~/vxlan10-bridge.xml
  3. Remove the ~/vxlan10-bridge.xml file:

    # rm ~/vxlan10-bridge.xml
  4. Start the vxlan10-bridge virtual network:

    # virsh net-start vxlan10-bridge
  5. Configure the vxlan10-bridge virtual network to start automatically when the libvirtd service starts:

    # virsh net-autostart vxlan10-bridge


  • Display the list of virtual networks:

    # virsh net-list
     Name              State    Autostart   Persistent
     vxlan10-bridge    active   yes         yes

Additional resources

  • virsh(1) man page

9.5. Configuring virtual machines to use VXLAN

To configure a VM to use a bridge device with an attached virtual extensible LAN (VXLAN) on the host, create a new VM that uses the vxlan10-bridge virtual network or update the settings of existing VMs to use this network.

Perform this procedure on the RHEL hosts.


  • You configured the vxlan10-bridge virtual network in libvirtd.


  • To create a new VM and configure it to use the vxlan10-bridge network, pass the --network network:vxlan10-bridge option to the virt-install command when you create the VM:

    # virt-install ... --network network:vxlan10-bridge
  • To change the network settings of an existing VM:

    1. Connect the VM’s network interface to the vxlan10-bridge virtual network:

      # virt-xml VM_name --edit --network network=vxlan10-bridge
    2. Shut down the VM, and start it again:

      # virsh shutdown VM_name
      # virsh start VM_name


  1. Display the virtual network interfaces of the VM on the host:

    # virsh domiflist VM_name
     Interface   Type     Source           Model    MAC
     vnet1       bridge   vxlan10-bridge   virtio   52:54:00:c5:98:1c
  2. Display the interfaces attached to the vxlan10-bridge bridge:

    # ip link show master vxlan10-bridge
    18: vxlan10: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc noqueue master br0 state UNKNOWN mode DEFAULT group default qlen 1000
        link/ether 2a:53:bd:d5:b3:0a brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
    19: vnet1: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc noqueue master br0 state UNKNOWN mode DEFAULT group default qlen 1000
        link/ether 52:54:00:c5:98:1c brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff

    Note that the libvirtd service dynamically updates the bridge’s configuration. When you start a VM which uses the vxlan10-bridge network, the corresponding vnet* device on the host appears as a port of the bridge.

  3. Use address resolution protocol (ARP) requests to verify whether VMs are in the same VXLAN:

    1. Start two or more VMs in the same VXLAN.
    2. Send an ARP request from one VM to the other one:

      # arping -c 1
      ARPING from enp1s0
      Unicast reply from [52:54:00:c5:98:1c] 1.450ms
      Sent 1 probe(s) (0 broadcast(s))
      Received 1 response(s) (0 request(s), 0 broadcast(s))

      If the command shows a reply, the VM is in the same layer-2 domain and, in this case in the same VXLAN.

      Install the iputils package to use the arping utility.

Additional resources

  • virt-install(1) man page
  • virt-xml(1) man page
  • virsh(1) man page
  • arping(8) man page
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