Nov 13 – 15, 2018
America/Vancouver timezone

ERSPAN Support for Linux

Nov 13, 2018, 2:35 PM
Junior/Ballroom-C (Sheraton Vancouver Wall Center)


Sheraton Vancouver Wall Center



William Tu (VMware) Greg Rose (VMware)


Port mirroring is one of the most common network troubleshooting
techniques. SPAN (Switch Port Analyzer) allows a user to send a copy
of the monitored traffic to a local or remote device using a sniffer
or packet analyzer. RSPAN is similar, but sends and received traffic
on a VLAN. ERSPAN extends the port mirroring capability from Layer 2
to Layer 3, allowing the mirrored traffic to be encapsulated in an
extension of the GRE (Generic Routing Encapsulation) protocol and sent
through an IP network. In addition, ERSPAN carries configurable
metadatas (e.g., session ID, timestamps), so that the packet analyzer
has better understanding of the packets.

ERSPAN for IPv4 was added into Linux kernel in 4.14, and for IPv6 in
4.16. The implementation includes both transmission and reception and
is based on the existing ip_gre and ip6_gre kernel module. As a
result, Linux today can act as an ERSPAN traffic source sending the
ERSPAN mirrored traffic to the remote host, or an ERSPAN destination
which receives and parses the ERSPAN packets generated from Cisco or
other ERSPAN-capable switches.

We’ve added both the native tunnel support and metadata-mode tunnel
support. In this paper, we demonstrate three ways to use the ERSPAN
protocol. First, for Linux users, using iproute2 to create native
tunnel net device. Traffic sent to the net device will be
encapsulated with the protocol header accordingly and traffic matching
the protocol configuration will be received from the net device.
Second, for eBPF users, using iproute2 to create metadata-mode ERSPAN
tunnel. With eBPF TC hook and eBPF tunnel helper functions, users can
read/write ERSPAN protocol’s fields in finer granularity. Finally,
for Open vSwitch users, using the netlink interface to create a switch
and programmatically parse, lookup, and forward the ERSPAN packets
based on flows installed from the userspace.

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