Keepalived and unicast over multiple interfaces

Vincent Bernat

Keepalived is a Linux implementation of VRRP. The usual role of VRRP is to share a virtual IP across a set of routers. For each VRRP instance, a leader is elected and gets to serve the IP address, ensuring the high availability of the attached service. Keepalived can also be used for a generic leader election, thanks to its ability to use scripts for health checking and run commands on state change.

A simple configuration looks like this:

vrrp_instance gateway1 {
  state BACKUP          # ❶
  interface eth0        # ❷
  virtual_router_id 12  # ❸
  priority 101          # ❹
  virtual_ipaddress {
    2001:db8:ff/64
  }
}

The state keyword in ❶ instructs Keepalived to not take the leader role when starting. Otherwise, incoming nodes create a temporary disruption by taking over the IP address until the election settles. The interface keyword in ❷ defines the interface for sending and receiving VRRP packets. It is also the default interface to configure the virtual IP address. The virtual_router_id directive in ❸ is common to all nodes sharing the virtual IP. The priority keyword in ❹ helps to choose which router will be elected as leader. If you need more information about Keepalived, be sure to check the documentation.

VRRP design is tied to Ethernet networks and requires a multicast-enabled network for communication between nodes. In some environments, notably public clouds, multicast is unavailable. In this case, Keepalived can send VRRP packets using unicast:

vrrp_instance gateway1 {
  state BACKUP
  interface eth0
  virtual_router_id 12
  priority 101
  unicast_peer {
    2001:db8::11
    2001:db8::12
  }
  virtual_ipaddress {
    2001:db8:ff/64 dev lo
  }
}

Another process, like a BGP daemon, should advertise the virtual IP address to the “network.” If needed, Keepalived can trigger whatever action is needed for this by using notify_* scripts.

Until version 2.21 (not released yet), the interface directive is mandatory and Keepalived will transmit and receive VRRP packets on this interface only. If peers are reachable through several interfaces, like on a BGP on the host setup, you need a workaround. A simple one is to use a VXLAN interface:

$ ip -6 link add keepalived6 type vxlan id 6 dstport 4789 local 2001:db8::10 nolearning
$ bridge fdb append 00:00:00:00:00:00 dev keepalived6 dst 2001:db8::11
$ bridge fdb append 00:00:00:00:00:00 dev keepalived6 dst 2001:db8::12
$ ip link set up dev keepalived6

Learning of MAC addresses is disabled and one generic entry for each peer is added in the forwarding database: transmitted packets are broadcasted to all peers, notably VRRP packets. Have a look at “VXLAN & Linux” for additional details.

vrrp_instance gateway1 {
  state BACKUP
  interface keepalived6
  mcast_src_ip 2001:db8::10
  virtual_router_id 12
  priority 101
  virtual_ipaddress {
    2001:db8:ff/64 dev lo
  }
}

Starting from Keepalived 2.21, unicast_peer can be used without the interface directive. I think using VXLAN is still a neat trick applicable to other situations where communication using broadcast or multicast is needed, while the underlying network provides no support for this.

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