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As far as i know, there are 4 main types of network interfaces in linux: tun, tap, bridge and physical.

When i'm doing sys admin on machines running KVM, i usually come accross tap, bridge and physical interfaces on the same machine, without being able to tell them apart. I can't see any significant differences in ifconfig results, as in ip results.

How can i know if an interface is tun/tap/bridge/physical ?

note: I don't claim there is no other types of network interfaces in linux, but i know only this 4 ones

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2 Answers 2

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I don't think there's an easy way to distinguish them. Poking around in /sys/class/net I found the following distinctions:

  • Physical devices have a /sys/class/net/eth0/device symlink
  • Bridges have a /sys/class/net/br0/bridge directory
  • TUN and TAP devices have a /sys/class/net/tap0/tun_flags file
  • Bridges and loopback interfaces have 00:00:00:00:00:00 in /sys/class/net/lo/address
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Good idea to look in /sys/ –  user368507 Jun 17 '12 at 15:43
Virtual devices may also have such a device symlink: ls -l /sys/class/net/lan1/device Shows /sys/class/net/lan1/device -> ../../../dsa.0 on a router running OpenWrt (embedded Linux). I found that physical Interfaces have an Interrupt entry in the output of ifconfig. It is strange that such a simple question about an Interface seems so hard to answer. Investigation continues ... –  Lumi Dec 1 '12 at 11:53

Regarding TUN and TAP devices: it is not enough to make the check above. The reason is that there may be cases when we create a tun device and (by error) call it tap10; or create a tap device and name it tun10. How can I know if it is a tun device or a tap device ? both of course will have "tun_flags" entry. The answer is to run "ethtool -i tunOrTapDeviceName".

In case of a tap device we will get: "bus-info: tap". In case of a tun device we will get: "bus-info: tun".

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Isn't there a ethtool command to find if an interface it physical or bridge? –  madCode Sep 3 '13 at 14:49

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