Common Configuration Issues

Q: I created a bridge and added my Ethernet port to it, using commands like these:

$ ovs-vsctl add-br br0
$ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 eth0

and as soon as I ran the “add-port” command I lost all connectivity through eth0. Help!

A: A physical Ethernet device that is part of an Open vSwitch bridge should not have an IP address. If one does, then that IP address will not be fully functional.

You can restore functionality by moving the IP address to an Open vSwitch “internal” device, such as the network device named after the bridge itself. For example, assuming that eth0’s IP address is, you could run the commands below to fix up the situation:

$ ip addr flush dev eth0
$ ip addr add dev br0
$ ip link set br0 up

(If your only connection to the machine running OVS is through the IP address in question, then you would want to run all of these commands on a single command line, or put them into a script.) If there were any additional routes assigned to eth0, then you would also want to use commands to adjust these routes to go through br0.

If you use DHCP to obtain an IP address, then you should kill the DHCP client that was listening on the physical Ethernet interface (e.g. eth0) and start one listening on the internal interface (e.g. br0). You might still need to manually clear the IP address from the physical interface (e.g. with “ip addr flush dev eth0”).

There is no compelling reason why Open vSwitch must work this way. However, this is the way that the Linux kernel bridge module has always worked, so it’s a model that those accustomed to Linux bridging are already used to. Also, the model that most people expect is not implementable without kernel changes on all the versions of Linux that Open vSwitch supports.

By the way, this issue is not specific to physical Ethernet devices. It applies to all network devices except Open vSwitch “internal” devices.

Q: I created a bridge and added a couple of Ethernet ports to it, using commands like these:

$ ovs-vsctl add-br br0
$ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 eth0
$ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 eth1

and now my network seems to have melted: connectivity is unreliable (even connectivity that doesn’t go through Open vSwitch), all the LEDs on my physical switches are blinking, wireshark shows duplicated packets, and CPU usage is very high.

A: More than likely, you’ve looped your network. Probably, eth0 and eth1 are connected to the same physical Ethernet switch. This yields a scenario where OVS receives a broadcast packet on eth0 and sends it out on eth1, then the physical switch connected to eth1 sends the packet back on eth0, and so on forever. More complicated scenarios, involving a loop through multiple switches, are possible too.

The solution depends on what you are trying to do:

  • If you added eth0 and eth1 to get higher bandwidth or higher reliability between OVS and your physical Ethernet switch, use a bond. The following commands create br0 and then add eth0 and eth1 as a bond:

    $ ovs-vsctl add-br br0
    $ ovs-vsctl add-bond br0 bond0 eth0 eth1

    Bonds have tons of configuration options. Please read the documentation on the Port table in ovs-vswitchd.conf.db(5) for all the details.

    Configuration for DPDK-enabled interfaces is slightly less straightforward. Refer to Open vSwitch with DPDK for more information.

  • Perhaps you don’t actually need eth0 and eth1 to be on the same bridge. For example, if you simply want to be able to connect each of them to virtual machines, then you can put each of them on a bridge of its own:

    $ ovs-vsctl add-br br0
    $ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 eth0
    $ ovs-vsctl add-br br1
    $ ovs-vsctl add-port br1 eth1

    and then connect VMs to br0 and br1. (A potential disadvantage is that traffic cannot directly pass between br0 and br1. Instead, it will go out eth0 and come back in eth1, or vice versa.)

  • If you have a redundant or complex network topology and you want to prevent loops, turn on spanning tree protocol (STP). The following commands create br0, enable STP, and add eth0 and eth1 to the bridge. The order is important because you don’t want have to have a loop in your network even transiently:

    $ ovs-vsctl add-br br0
    $ ovs-vsctl set bridge br0 stp_enable=true
    $ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 eth0
    $ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 eth1

    The Open vSwitch implementation of STP is not well tested. Report any bugs you observe, but if you’d rather avoid acting as a beta tester then another option might be your best shot.

Q: I can’t seem to use Open vSwitch in a wireless network.

A: Wireless base stations generally only allow packets with the source MAC address of NIC that completed the initial handshake. Therefore, without MAC rewriting, only a single device can communicate over a single wireless link.

This isn’t specific to Open vSwitch, it’s enforced by the access point, so the same problems will show up with the Linux bridge or any other way to do bridging.

Q: I can’t seem to add my PPP interface to an Open vSwitch bridge.

A: PPP most commonly carries IP packets, but Open vSwitch works only with Ethernet frames. The correct way to interface PPP to an Ethernet network is usually to use routing instead of switching.

Q: Is there any documentation on the database tables and fields?

A: Yes. ovs-vswitchd.conf.db(5) is a comprehensive reference.

Q: When I run ovs-dpctl I no longer see the bridges I created. Instead, I only see a datapath called “ovs-system”. How can I see datapath information about a particular bridge?

A: In version 1.9.0, OVS switched to using a single datapath that is shared by all bridges of that type. The ovs-appctl dpif/* commands provide similar functionality that is scoped by the bridge.

Q: I created a GRE port using ovs-vsctl so why can’t I send traffic or see the port in the datapath?

A: On Linux kernels before 3.11, the OVS GRE module and Linux GRE module cannot be loaded at the same time. It is likely that on your system the Linux GRE module is already loaded and blocking OVS (to confirm, check dmesg for errors regarding GRE registration). To fix this, unload all GRE modules that appear in lsmod as well as the OVS kernel module. You can then reload the OVS module following the directions in Open vSwitch on Linux, FreeBSD and NetBSD , which will ensure that dependencies are satisfied.

Q: Open vSwitch does not seem to obey my packet filter rules.

A: It depends on mechanisms and configurations you want to use.

You cannot usefully use typical packet filters, like iptables, on physical Ethernet ports that you add to an Open vSwitch bridge. This is because Open vSwitch captures packets from the interface at a layer lower below where typical packet-filter implementations install their hooks. (This actually applies to any interface of type “system” that you might add to an Open vSwitch bridge.)

You can usefully use typical packet filters on Open vSwitch internal ports as they are mostly ordinary interfaces from the point of view of packet filters.

For example, suppose you create a bridge br0 and add Ethernet port eth0 to it. Then you can usefully add iptables rules to affect the internal interface br0, but not the physical interface eth0. (br0 is also where you would add an IP address, as discussed elsewhere in the FAQ.)

For simple filtering rules, it might be possible to achieve similar results by installing appropriate OpenFlow flows instead. The OVS conntrack feature (see the “ct” action in ovs-ofctl(8)) can implement a stateful firewall.

If the use of a particular packet filter setup is essential, Open vSwitch might not be the best choice for you. On Linux, you might want to consider using the Linux Bridge. (This is the only choice if you want to use ebtables rules.) On NetBSD, you might want to consider using the bridge(4) with BRIDGE_IPF option.

Q: It seems that Open vSwitch does nothing when I removed a port and then immediately put it back. For example, consider that p1 is a port of type=internal:

$ ovs-vsctl del-port br0 p1 -- \
    add-port br0 p1 -- \
    set interface p1 type=internal

Any other type of port gets the same effect.

A: It’s an expected behaviour.

If del-port and add-port happen in a single OVSDB transaction as your example, Open vSwitch always “skips” the intermediate steps. Even if they are done in multiple transactions, it’s still allowed for Open vSwitch to skip the intermediate steps and just implement the overall effect. In both cases, your example would be turned into a no-op.

If you want to make Open vSwitch actually destroy and then re-create the port for some side effects like resetting kernel setting for the corresponding interface, you need to separate operations into multiple OVSDB transactions and ensure that at least the first one does not have --no-wait. In the following example, the first ovs-vsctl will block until Open vSwitch reloads the new configuration and removes the port:

$ ovs-vsctl del-port br0 p1
$ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 p1 -- \
    set interface p1 type=internal

Q: I want to add thousands of ports to an Open vSwitch bridge, but it takes too long (minutes or hours) to do it with ovs-vsctl. How can I do it faster?

A: If you add them one at a time with ovs-vsctl, it can take a long time to add thousands of ports to an Open vSwitch bridge. This is because every invocation of ovs-vsctl first reads the current configuration from OVSDB. As the number of ports grows, this starts to take an appreciable amount of time, and when it is repeated thousands of times the total time becomes significant.

The solution is to add the ports in one invocation of ovs-vsctl (or a small number of them). For example, using bash:

$ ovs-vsctl add-br br0
$ cmds=; for i in {1..5000}; do cmds+=" -- add-port br0 p$i"; done
$ ovs-vsctl $cmds

takes seconds, not minutes or hours, in the OVS sandbox environment.

Q: I created a bridge named br0. My bridge shows up in “ovs-vsctl show”, but “ovs-ofctl show br0” just prints “br0 is not a bridge or a socket”.

A: Open vSwitch wasn’t able to create the bridge. Check the ovs-vswitchd log for details (Debian and Red Hat packaging for Open vSwitch put it in /var/log/openvswitch/ovs-vswitchd.log).

In general, the Open vSwitch database reflects the desired configuration state. ovs-vswitchd monitors the database and, when it changes, reconfigures the system to reflect the new desired state. This normally happens very quickly. Thus, a discrepancy between the database and the actual state indicates that ovs-vswitchd could not implement the configuration, and so one should check the log to find out why. (Another possible cause is that ovs-vswitchd is not running. This will make ovs-vsctl commands hang, if they change the configuration, unless one specifies --no-wait.)

Q: I have a bridge br0. I added a new port vif1.0, and it shows up in “ovs-vsctl show”, but “ovs-vsctl list port” says that it has OpenFlow port (“ofport”) -1, and “ovs-ofctl show br0” doesn’t show vif1.0 at all.

A: Open vSwitch wasn’t able to create the port. Check the ovs-vswitchd log for details (Debian and Red Hat packaging for Open vSwitch put it in /var/log/openvswitch/ovs-vswitchd.log). Please see the previous question for more information.

You may want to upgrade to Open vSwitch 2.3 (or later), in which ovs-vsctl will immediately report when there is an issue creating a port.

Q: I created a tap device tap0, configured an IP address on it, and added it to a bridge, like this:

$ tunctl -t tap0
$ ip addr add dev tap0
$ ip link set tap0 up
$ ovs-vsctl add-br br0
$ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 tap0

I expected that I could then use this IP address to contact other hosts on the network, but it doesn’t work. Why not?

A: The short answer is that this is a misuse of a “tap” device. Use an “internal” device implemented by Open vSwitch, which works differently and is designed for this use. To solve this problem with an internal device, instead run:

$ ovs-vsctl add-br br0
$ ovs-vsctl add-port br0 int0 -- set Interface int0 type=internal
$ ip addr add dev int0
$ ip link set int0 up

Even more simply, you can take advantage of the internal port that every bridge has under the name of the bridge:

$ ovs-vsctl add-br br0
$ ip addr add dev br0
$ ip link set br0 up

In more detail, a “tap” device is an interface between the Linux (or BSD) network stack and a user program that opens it as a socket. When the “tap” device transmits a packet, it appears in the socket opened by the userspace program. Conversely, when the userspace program writes to the “tap” socket, the kernel TCP/IP stack processes the packet as if it had been received by the “tap” device.

Consider the configuration above. Given this configuration, if you “ping” an IP address in the 192.168.0.x subnet, the Linux kernel routing stack will transmit an ARP on the tap0 device. Open vSwitch userspace treats “tap” devices just like any other network device; that is, it doesn’t open them as “tap” sockets. That means that the ARP packet will simply get dropped.

You might wonder why the Open vSwitch kernel module doesn’t intercept the ARP packet and bridge it. After all, Open vSwitch intercepts packets on other devices. The answer is that Open vSwitch only intercepts received packets, but this is a packet being transmitted. The same thing happens for all other types of network devices, except for Open vSwitch “internal” ports. If you, for example, add a physical Ethernet port to an OVS bridge, configure an IP address on a physical Ethernet port, and then issue a “ping” to an address in that subnet, the same thing happens: an ARP gets transmitted on the physical Ethernet port and Open vSwitch never sees it. (You should not do that, as documented at the beginning of this section.)

It can make sense to add a “tap” device to an Open vSwitch bridge, if some userspace program (other than Open vSwitch) has opened the tap socket. This is the case, for example, if the “tap” device was created by KVM (or QEMU) to simulate a virtual NIC. In such a case, when OVS bridges a packet to the “tap” device, the kernel forwards that packet to KVM in userspace, which passes it along to the VM, and in the other direction, when the VM sends a packet, KVM writes it to the “tap” socket, which causes OVS to receive it and bridge it to the other OVS ports. Please note that in such a case no IP address is configured on the “tap” device (there is normally an IP address configured in the virtual NIC inside the VM, but this is not visible to the host Linux kernel or to Open vSwitch).

There is one special case in which Open vSwitch does directly read and write “tap” sockets. This is an implementation detail of the Open vSwitch userspace switch, which implements its “internal” ports as Linux (or BSD) “tap” sockets. In such a userspace switch, OVS receives packets sent on the “tap” device used to implement an “internal” port by reading the associated “tap” socket, and bridges them to the rest of the switch. In the other direction, OVS transmits packets bridged to the “internal” port by writing them to the “tap” socket, causing them to be processed by the kernel TCP/IP stack as if they had been received on the “tap” device. Users should not need to be concerned with this implementation detail.

Open vSwitch has a network device type called “tap”. This is intended only for implementing “internal” ports in the OVS userspace switch and should not be used otherwise. In particular, users should not configure KVM “tap” devices as type “tap” (use type “system”, the default, instead).

Q: I observe packet loss at the beginning of RFC2544 tests on a server running few hundred container apps bridged to OVS with traffic generated by HW traffic generator. How can I fix this?

A: This is expected behavior on virtual switches. RFC2544 tests were designed for hardware switches, which don’t have caches on the fastpath that need to be heated. Traffic generators in order to prime the switch use learning phase to heat the caches before sending the actual traffic in test phase. In case of OVS the cache is flushed quickly and to accommodate the traffic generator’s delay between learning and test phase, the max-idle timeout settings should be changed to 50000 ms.:

$ ovs-vsctl --no-wait set Open_vSwitch . other_config:max-idle=50000

Q: How can I configure the bridge internal interface MTU? Why does Open vSwitch keep changing internal ports MTU?

A: By default Open vSwitch overrides the internal interfaces (e.g. br0) MTU. If you have just an internal interface (e.g. br0) and a physical interface (e.g. eth0), then every change in MTU to eth0 will be reflected to br0. Any manual MTU configuration using ip on internal interfaces is going to be overridden by Open vSwitch to match the current bridge minimum.

Sometimes this behavior is not desirable, for example with tunnels. The MTU of an internal interface can be explicitly set using the following command:

$ ovs-vsctl set int br0 mtu_request=1450

After this, Open vSwitch will configure br0 MTU to 1450. Since this setting is in the database it will be persistent (compared to what happens with ip).

The MTU configuration can be removed to restore the default behavior with:

$ ovs-vsctl set int br0 mtu_request=[]

The mtu_request column can be used to configure MTU even for physical interfaces (e.g. eth0).

Q: I just upgraded and I see a performance drop. Why?

A: The OVS kernel datapath may have been updated to a newer version than the OVS userspace components. Sometimes new versions of OVS kernel module add functionality that is backwards compatible with older userspace components but may cause a drop in performance with them. Especially, if a kernel module from OVS 2.1 or newer is paired with OVS userspace 1.10 or older, there will be a performance drop for TCP traffic.

Updating the OVS userspace components to the latest released version should fix the performance degradation.

To get the best possible performance and functionality, it is recommended to pair the same versions of the kernel module and OVS userspace.