I am confused by the way I have to set up virtual switches in Linux. I proceeded as follows:

ip link add name br0 type bridge
ip link set br0 up

This should create a virtual switch called br0. Now, let's suppose I have a physical network device called eth0 and a tap device vnet0 created by KVM/qemu on my machine. The tap device is automatically attached to br0 (by configuration) and eth0 can be added by hand:

ip link set eth0 master br0

Both devices should now be attached to the switch br0.

I assigned the IP address to eth0 and to the network interface inside the virtualization. Of course the tap interface itself doesn't know anything about this address.

If I had exactly this setting with a physical switch instead of a virtual one, I would expect to be able to ping the address from the host system. However, this IP cannot be reached via ping:

PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
From icmp_seq=1 Destination Host Unreachable

Why is that?

I expected eth0 to send an ARP request into all Ethernet segments it's part of. This is the physical one, but also the one defined by br0. The ARP request should have been answered by vnet0 with it's MAC address.

The solution I found was to assign an IP address to br0 as well:

ip addr add dev br0

Now the ping works fine.

  • In a bridge interface the IP address has to be assigned to `br0´ and not to the individual interfaces... Feb 20, 2017 at 21:29
  • @RuiFRibeiro: But why? I find this counter-intuitive, given that it's supposed to be a (virtual) switch.
    – Democritus
    Feb 20, 2017 at 21:34
  • A bridge is not a switch. If you need a switch look at this openvswitch.org Feb 20, 2017 at 21:36
  • 1
    @Democritus. No. In networking, there is a fundamental difference between a bridge and a switch. However. Linux regards a software bridge as one of the 3 types of supported software switches - the others are macvlan and open vswitch. This may be the source of your confusion.
    – fpmurphy
    Feb 20, 2017 at 22:49
  • 2
    @fpmurphy1 What is the fundamental difference? They do the same thing. Feb 21, 2017 at 9:59

1 Answer 1


I assigned the IP address to eth0

That's where this setup went wrong. eth0 has been set as a bridge member interface (layer 2) and therefore should not have any IP (layer 3) address.

(You probably ended with a sort of broken configuration involving two direct routes both to via 2 different interfaces, only one of which worked. But the exact details of the incorrect setup don't really matter.)

Why is that?

I expected eth0 to send an ARP request into all Ethernet segments it's part of. This is the physical one, but also the one defined by br0.

eth0 won't send any ARP. It's no longer a layer 3 interface once it's part of a bridge.

  • The (layer 2) ports on this bridge are
    • eth0,
    • tap0, and
    • the bridge itself.
  • The (layer 3) participants on this bridge are (in the same order)
    • All of the devices that can be reached through eth0 (most likely: a bunch of other devices on your local network)
    • Whatever is at the other and of tap0 (which is likely one thing)
    • The br0 interface
  • Thanks for this extremely helpful answer, Celada! What I don't understand now is how it makes sense that br0 is a "port" of the bridge and an interface connected to the bridge at the same time. Could you also explain that for me?
    – Democritus
    Feb 20, 2017 at 22:15
  • Also, any recommendations where to read up on virtual bridges / switches?
    – Democritus
    Feb 20, 2017 at 22:16
  • 1
    Draw a diagram. There is the bridge. There is your kernel's layer 3 networking stack. There is a line between them. It represents your system's ability to be a participant on the bridged network. Consider this line. The fact that there is a line coming out of the bridge indicates a port (among others) on the bridge. As for the (same) line in to the layer 3 networking stack, that's treated as an interface, and it's called br0.
    – Celada
    Feb 21, 2017 at 10:10
  • That makes sort of sense. Thanks again, you're being really helpful.
    – Democritus
    Feb 21, 2017 at 18:53

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