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Understanding EVPN with VXLAN Data Plane Encapsulation

Ethernet VPNs (EVPNs) enable you to connect groups of dispersed customer sites using Layer 2 virtual bridges, and Virtual Extensible LANs (VXLANs) allow you to stretch Layer 2 connectivity over an intervening Layer 3 network, while providing network segmentation like a VLAN, but without the scaling limitation of traditional VLANs. EVPN with VXLAN encapsulation handles Layer 2 connectivity at the scale required by cloud server providers and replaces limiting protocols like Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), freeing up your Layer 3 network to use more robust routing protocols. EVPN with VXLAN data plane encapsulation can be used with and without Juniper Networks Contrail virtualization software—use Contrail with EVPN VXLAN data plane encapsulation when you have an environment that includes both virtual and bare-metal devices.

Understanding EVPN

Ethernet VPN (EVPN) is a standards-based technology that provides virtual multipoint bridged connectivity between different Layer 2 domains over an IP or IP/MPLS backbone network. Like other VPN technologies, such as IP VPN and virtual private LAN service (VPLS), EVPN instances are configured on provider edge (PE) routers to maintain logical service separation between customers. The PE routers connect to customer edge (CE) devices, which can be routers, switches, or hosts. The PE routers then exchange reachability information using Multiprotocol BGP (MP-BGP) and encapsulated traffic is forwarded between PE routers. Because elements of the architecture are common with other VPN technologies, you can seamlessly introduce and integrate EVPN into existing service environments, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: EVPN OverviewEVPN Overview

The EVPN is used as a Layer 2 overlay solution to provide Layer 2 connection over an IP underlay for the endpoints within a virtual network whenever Layer 2 connectivity is required by an end station such as bare-metal server (BMS). Otherwise, Layer 3 routing is used through VRF tables between Contrail vRouters and MX Series routers. EVPN technology offers multitenancy, flexible services that can be extended on demand, frequently using compute resources of different physical data centers for a single service (Layer 2 extension).

EVPN’s MP-BGP control plane enables you to dynamically move live virtual machines from one data center to another, also known as virtual machine (VM) motion. After you move a VM to a destination server or hypervisor, it transmits a gratuitous ARP, which updates the Layer 2 forwarding table of the PE device at the destination data center. The PE device then transmits a MAC route update to all remote PE devices which in turn update their forwarding tables. An EVPN tracks the movement of the VM, which is also known as MAC mobility.

EVPN also has mechanisms that detect and stop MAC flapping, and prevent the looping of broadcast, unknown unicast, and multicast (BUM) traffic in an all-active multi-homed topology.

The EVPN technology, similar to Layer 3 MPLS VPN, includes the concept of routing MAC addresses using IP/MPLS core. EVPN provides the following benefits:

  • Ability to have an active multihomed edge device

  • Aliasing

  • Fast convergence

  • Load balancing across dual-active links

  • MAC address mobility

  • Multitenancy

In addition, EVPN uses these techniques:

  • Multihoming provides redundancy in the event that an access link or one of the PE routing devices fails. In either case, traffic flows from the CE device towards the PE router, using the remaining active links. For traffic in the other direction, the remote PE router updates its forwarding table to send traffic to the remaining active PE routers connected to the multihomed Ethernet segment. EVPN provides a fast convergence mechanism, which reduces traffic restoration time so that the time it takes to make this adjustment is independent of the number of media access control (MAC) addresses learned by the PE router. All-active multihoming enables a CE device to connect to two or more PE routers such that traffic is forwarded using all of the links between the devices. This multihoming enables the CE device to load-balance traffic to multiple PE routers. More importantly, multihoming enables a remote PE router to load-balance traffic to the multihomed PE routers across the core network. This load balancing of traffic flows between data centers is known as aliasing, which causes different signals to become indistinguishable—they become aliases of one another. Aliasing is used with digital audio and digital images.

  • Split horizon prevents the looping of broadcast, unknown unicast, and multicast (BUM) traffic in a network. The split horizon basic principle is simple: Information about the routing for a particular packet is never sent back in the direction from which it was received.

  • Local link bias conserves bandwidth by using local links to forward unicast traffic exiting a Virtual Chassis or Virtual Chassis Fabric (VCF) that has a link aggregation group (LAG) bundle composed of member links on different member switches in the same Virtual Chassis or VCF. A local link is a member link in the LAG bundle that is on the member switch that received the traffic.

  • EVPN with VXLAN encapsulation is used for Layer 2 connectivity between virtual machines and a top-of-rack (TOR) switch, for example, a QFX5100 switch, within a Layer 2 domain.

You can use Contrail to provision an MX Series router as a Layer 2 or Layer 3 VXLAN gateway. MX Series routers implement the NETCONF XML management protocol, which is an XML-based protocol that client applications use to request and change configuration information on routing, switching, and security devices. The NETCONF XML management protocol uses an XML based data encoding for the configuration data and remote procedure calls. The NETCONF protocol defines basic operations that are equivalent to configuration mode commands in the command-line interface (CLI). Applications use the protocol operations to display, edit, and commit configuration statements similarly to how administrators use CLI configuration mode commands to perform those same operations.

Understanding VXLAN

Virtual extensible LANs (VXLANs) introduced an overlay scheme that expands the Layer 2 network address space from 4K to 16 million, largely solving the scaling issues seen in VLAN-based environments.

Network overlays are created by encapsulating traffic and tunneling the traffic over a physical network. You can use a number of tunneling protocols in the data center to create network overlays—the most common protocol is VXLAN. VXLAN tunneling protocol encapsulates Layer 2 Ethernet frames in Layer 3 UDP packets. This encapsulation enables you to create virtual Layer 2 subnets or segments that can span physical Layer 3 networks.

In a VXLAN overlay network, a VXLAN network identifier (VNI) uniquely identifies each Layer 2 subnet or segment. A VNI segments traffic the same way that an IEEE 802.1Q VLAN ID segments traffic. As is the case with VLAN, virtual machines on the same VNI can communicate directly with each other, whereas virtual machines on different VNIs need a router to communicate with each other.

The entity that performs the encapsulation and de-encapsulation is called a VXLAN tunnel endpoint (VTEP). In the physical network, a Juniper Networks device that functions as a Layer 2 or Layer 3 VXLAN gateway can enacapsulate and de-encapsulate data packets. This type of VTEP is known as a hardware VTEP. In the virtual network, VTEPs can reside in hypervisor hosts, such as kernel-based virtual machine (KVM) hosts. This type of VTEP is known as a software VTEP.

Each VTEP has two interfaces.

  • One interface is a switching interface that faces the virtual machines in the host and provides communication between VMs on the local LAN segment.

  • The other is an IP interface that faces the Layer 3 network.

Each VTEP has a unique IP address that is used for routing the UDP packets between VTEPs. For example, when VTEP1 receives an Ethernet frame from VM1 addressed to VM3, it uses the VNI and the destination MAC to look up in its forwarding table which VTEP sends the packet to. It then adds a VXLAN header that contains the VNI to the Ethernet frame and encapsulates the frame in a Layer 3 UDP packet and routes the packet to VTEP2 over the Layer 3 network. VTEP2 de-encapsulates the original Ethernet frame and forwards it to VM3. VM1 and VM3 cannot detect the VXLAN tunnel and the Layer 3 network between them.

EVPN-VXLAN Integration Overview

VXLAN defines a tunneling scheme to overlay Layer 2 networks on top of Layer 3 networks. This tunneling scheme allows for optimal forwarding of Ethernet frames with support for multipathing of unicast and multicast traffic with the use of UDP/IP encapsulation for tunneling, and is mainly used for the intra-data center site connectivity.

A unique characteristic of EVPN is that MAC address learning between PE routers occurs in the control plane. The local PE router detects a new MAC address from a CE device and then, using MP-BGP, advertises the address to all the remote PE routers. This method differs from existing Layer 2 VPN solutions such as VPLS, which learn by flooding unknown unicast in the data plane. This control plane MAC learning method is the key enabler of the many useful features that EVPN provides.

Because MAC learning is handled in the control plane, EVPN has the flexibility to support different data plane encapsulation technologies between PE routers. This flexibility is important because not every backbone network might be running MPLS, especially in enterprise networks.

EVPN addresses many of the challenges faced by network operators building data centers to offer cloud and virtualization services. The main application of EVPN is Data Center Interconnect (DCI), which refers to the ability to extend Layer 2 connectivity between different data centers that are deployed to improve the performance of delivering application traffic to end users and for disaster recovery.

Although various DCI technologies are available, EVPN has an advantage over the other MPLS technologies because of its unique features, such as active/active redundancy, aliasing, and mass MAC withdrawal. As a result, to provide a solution for DCI, VXLAN is integrated with EVPN.

As shown in Figure 2, each VXLAN, which is connected to the MPLS or IP core, runs an independent instance of the interior gateway protocol (IGP) control plane. Each PE router participates in the IGP control plane instance of its VXLAN. Each customer is a data center, so each has its own virtual router for VXLAN underlay.

Each PE node can terminate the VXLAN data plane encapsulation where the VXLAN network identifier (VNI) is mapped to a bridge domain or VLAN. The PE router performs data plane learning on the traffic received from the VXLAN.

Each PE node implements EVPN to distribute the client MAC addresses learned over the VXLAN tunnel into BGP. Each PE node encapsulates the VXLAN or Ethernet frames with MPLS when sending the packets over the MPLS core and with the VXLAN tunnel header when sending the packets over the VXLAN network.

Figure 2: EVPN-VXLAN Integration OverviewEVPN-VXLAN Integration Overview

Firewall Filtering and Policing Support for EVPN-VXLAN

For each firewall filter that you apply to a VXLAN, specify family ethernet-switching to filter Layer 2 (Ethernet) packets, or family inet to filter on IRB interfaces. The IRB interface acts as a Layer 3 routing interface to connect the VXLANs in one-layer or two-layer IP fabric topologies. The following limitations apply:

  • Filtering and policing are not supported for VXLAN transit traffic.

  • Firewall filtering on VNI at the egress VTEP device is not supported.

  • Policing on VNI at the egress VTEP device is not supported.

  • Match conditions against VXLAN header fields are not supported.


EVPN-VXLAN firewall filters are configured on the interface after the VXLAN header is stripped by the VXLAN tunnel endpoint (VTEP).

For more information on configuring firewall filters, match conditions, and actions, see:

Understanding Contrail Virtual Networks Use with EVPN-VXLAN

Juniper Networks Contrail virtualization software is a software-defined networking (SDN) solution that automates and orchestrates the creation of highly scalable virtual networks. These virtual networks enable you to harness the power of the cloud—for new services, increased business agility, and revenue growth. MX Series routers can use EVPN-VXLAN to provide both Layer 2 and Layer 3 connectivity for end stations within a Contrail virtual network (VN).

The Contrail software for virtual networks provides both Layer 2 and Layer 3 connectivity. With Contrail, Layer 3 routing is preferred over Layer 2 bridging whenever possible. Layer 3 routing is used through virtual routing and forwarding (VRF) tables between Contrail vRouters and physical MX Series routers. MX Series routers provide Layer 3 gateway functionality between virtual networks.

Contrail enables you to use EVPN-VXLAN when your network includes both virtual and bare-metal devices.

Two types of encapsulation methods are used in virtual networks.

  • MPLS-over-GRE (generic routing encapsulation) is used for Layer 3 routing between Contrail and MX Series routers.

  • EVPN-VXLAN is used for Layer 2 connectivity between virtual machines and top-of-rack (TOR) switches, for example, QFX5100 switches, within a Layer 2 domain. For Layer 2 connectivity, traffic load balancing in the core is achieved by using the multihoming all-active feature provided by EVPN. Starting with Junos OS Release 17.3R1, EX9200 switches also support EVPN-VXLAN with Contrail.


MPLS core is not supported on switches—only MX Series routers support this feature.

You cannot simultaneously mix EVPN-VXLAN with Open vSwitch Database (OVSDB)-VXLAN on QFX Series switches. After a switch is set to OVSDB-managed, the controller treats all ports as managed by OVSDB.

EVPN-VXLAN Support for VXLAN Underlay

Starting in Junos OS Release 14.1, MX Series routers support Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN) gateways. Each VXLAN gateway supports the following functionalities:

  • Switching functionality with traditional Layer 2 networks and VPLS networks

  • Inter-VXLAN routing and VXLAN-only bridging domain with IRB

  • Virtual switches

  • VXLAN with VRF functionality

  • Configurable load balancing

  • Statistics for remote VTEP

Starting in Junos OS Release 17.3, support is extended to VXLAN gateway implementation using an IPv6 underlay.


Only MX Series routers support EVPN-VXLAN with an IPv6 underlay.

The following service types are supported with the IPv6 underlay support:

  • VLAN-based service

  • VLAN-bundle service

  • Port-based service

  • VLAN-aware service

Both IPv4 and IPv6 EVPN-VXLAN underlays support the Type 2 MAC address with IP address advertisement and the proxy MAC address with IP address advertisement.

EVPN-VXLAN Packet Format

The EVPN-VXLAN packet format is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: EVPN-VXLAN Packet FormatEVPN-VXLAN Packet Format
Release History Table
Starting with Junos OS Release 17.3R1, EX9200 switches also support EVPN-VXLAN with Contrail.