Contributed by Coranth Gryphon.
For one machine to be able to find another over a network, there must be a mechanism
in place to describe how to get from one to the other. This is called routing. A ``route'' is a defined pair of addresses: a
``destination'' and a ``gateway''. The pair indicates that if you are trying to get to
this destination, communicate
through this gateway. There are
three types of destinations: individual hosts, subnets, and ``default''. The ``default
route'' is used if none of the other routes apply. We will talk a little bit more about
default routes later on. There are also three types of gateways: individual hosts,
interfaces (also called ``links''), and Ethernet hardware addresses (MAC addresses).
To illustrate different aspects of routing, we will use the following example from netstat:
% netstat -r
Destination Gateway Flags Refs Use Netif Expire
default outside-gw UGSc 37 418 ppp0
localhost localhost UH 0 181 lo0
test0 0:e0:b5:36:cf:4f UHLW 5 63288 ed0 77
10.20.30.255 link#1 UHLW 1 2421
example.com link#1 UC 0 0
host1 0:e0:a8:37:8:1e UHLW 3 4601 lo0
host2 0:e0:a8:37:8:1e UHLW 0 5 lo0 =>
host2.example.com link#1 UC 0 0
224 link#1 UC 0 0
The first two lines specify the default route (which we will cover in the next section) and the localhost route.
The interface (Netif column) that this routing table
specifies to use for localhost is lo0, also known as the loopback device. This says to keep all
traffic for this destination internal, rather than sending it out over the LAN, since it
will only end up back where it started.
The next thing that stands out are the addresses beginning with 0:e0:. These are Ethernet hardware addresses, which are also known as
MAC addresses. FreeBSD will automatically identify any hosts (test0 in the example) on the local Ethernet and add a route for that
host, directly to it over the Ethernet interface, ed0. There
is also a timeout (Expire column) associated with this type of
route, which is used if we fail to hear from the host in a specific amount of time. When
this happens, the route to this host will be automatically deleted. These hosts are
identified using a mechanism known as RIP (Routing Information Protocol), which figures
out routes to local hosts based upon a shortest path determination.
FreeBSD will also add subnet routes for the local subnet (10.20.30.255 is the broadcast address for the subnet 10.20.30, and example.com is the domain name
associated with that subnet). The designation link#1 refers to
the first Ethernet card in the machine. You will notice no additional interface is
specified for those.
Both of these groups (local network hosts and local subnets) have their routes
automatically configured by a daemon called routed. If this is
not run, then only routes which are statically defined (i.e. entered explicitly) will
The host1 line refers to our host, which it knows by
Ethernet address. Since we are the sending host, FreeBSD knows to use the loopback
interface (lo0) rather than sending it out over the Ethernet
The two host2 lines are an example of what happens when we
use an ifconfig(8) alias (see
the section on Ethernet for reasons why we would do this). The => symbol after the lo0 interface
says that not only are we using the loopback (since this address also refers to the local
host), but specifically it is an alias. Such routes only show up on the host that
supports the alias; all other hosts on the local network will simply have a link#1 line for such routes.
The final line (destination subnet 224) deals with
multicasting, which will be covered in another section.
Finally, various attributes of each route can be seen in the Flags column. Below is a short table of some of these flags and
||Up: The route is active.
||Host: The route destination is a single host.
||Gateway: Send anything for this destination on to this remote system, which will
figure out from there where to send it.
||Static: This route was configured manually, not automatically generated by the
||Clone: Generates a new route based upon this route for machines we connect to. This
type of route is normally used for local networks.
||WasCloned: Indicated a route that was auto-configured based upon a local area network
||Link: Route involves references to Ethernet hardware.
When the local system needs to make a connection to a remote host, it checks the
routing table to determine if a known path exists. If the remote host falls into a subnet
that we know how to reach (Cloned routes), then the system checks to see if it can
connect along that interface.
If all known paths fail, the system has one last option: the ``default'' route. This
route is a special type of gateway route (usually the only one present in the system),
and is always marked with a c in the flags field. For hosts on
a local area network, this gateway is set to whatever machine has a direct connection to
the outside world (whether via PPP link, DSL, cable modem, T1, or another network
If you are configuring the default route for a machine which itself is functioning as
the gateway to the outside world, then the default route will be the gateway machine at
your Internet Service Provider's (ISP) site.
Let us look at an example of default routes. This is a common configuration:
The hosts Local1 and Local2 are at
your site. Local1 is connected to an ISP via a dial up PPP
connection. This PPP server computer is connected through a local area network to another
gateway computer through an external interface to the ISPs Internet feed.
The default routes for each of your machines will be:
A common question is ``Why (or how) would we set the T1-GW to
be the default gateway for Local1, rather than the ISP server it
is connected to?''.
Remember, since the PPP interface is using an address on the ISP's local network for
your side of the connection, routes for any other machines on the ISP's local network
will be automatically generated. Hence, you will already know how to reach the T1-GW machine, so there is no need for the intermediate step of
sending traffic to the ISP server.
It is common to use the address X.X.X.1 as the gateway address
for your local network. So (using the same example), if your local class-C address space
was 10.20.30 and your ISP was using 10.9.9 then the default routes would be:
|Local1 (10.20.30.1, 10.9.9.30)
You can easily define the default route via the /etc/rc.conf
file. In our example, on the Local2 machine, we added the
following line in /etc/rc.conf:
It is also possible to do it directly from the command line with the route(8) command:
# route add default 10.20.30.1
For more informations on manual manipulation of network routing tables, consult route(8) manual
There is one other type of configuration that we should cover, and that is a host that
sits on two different networks. Technically, any machine functioning as a gateway (in the
example above, using a PPP connection) counts as a dual-homed host. But the term is
really only used to refer to a machine that sits on two local-area networks.
In one case, the machine has two Ethernet cards, each having an address on the
separate subnets. Alternately, the machine may only have one Ethernet card, and be using ifconfig(8) aliasing.
The former is used if two physically separate Ethernet networks are in use, the latter if
there is one physical network segment, but two logically separate subnets.
Either way, routing tables are set up so that each subnet knows that this machine is
the defined gateway (inbound route) to the other subnet. This configuration, with the
machine acting as a router between the two subnets, is often used when we need to
implement packet filtering or firewall security in either or both directions.
If you want this machine to actually forward packets between the two interfaces, you
need to tell FreeBSD to enable this ability. See the next section for more details on how
to do this.
A network router is simply a system that forwards packets from one interface to
another. Internet standards and good engineering practice prevent the FreeBSD Project
from enabling this by default in FreeBSD. You can enable this feature by changing the
following variable to YES in rc.conf(5):
gateway_enable=YES # Set to YES if this host will be a gateway
This option will set the sysctl(8) variable
net.inet.ip.forwarding to 1. If you
should need to stop routing temporarily, you can reset this to 0 temporarily.
Your new router will need routes to know where to send the traffic. If your network is
simple enough you can use static routes. FreeBSD also comes with the standard BSD routing
daemon routed(8), which
speaks RIP (both version 1 and version 2) and IRDP. Support for BGP v4, OSPF v2, and
other sophisticated routing protocols is available with the net/zebra package. Commercial products such as GateD® are also available for
more complex network routing solutions.
Even when FreeBSD is configured in this way, it does not completely comply with the
Internet standard requirements for routers. It comes close enough for ordinary use,
Contributed by Al Hoang.
Let us assume we have a network as follows:
| (10.0.0.1/24) Default Router to Internet
| | RouterA
| | (FreeBSD gateway)
| Interface xl1
Internal Net 1 | 192.168.1.2/24
| | RouterB
Internal Net 2
In this scenario, RouterA is our FreeBSD machine that is
acting as a router to the rest of the Internet. It has a default route set to 10.0.0.1 which allows it to connect with the outside world. We will
assume that RouterB is already configured properly and knows how
to get wherever it needs to go. (This is simple in this picture. Just add a default route
on RouterB using 192.168.1.1 as the
If we look at the routing table for RouterA we would see
something like the following:
% netstat -nr
Destination Gateway Flags Refs Use Netif Expire
default 10.0.0.1 UGS 0 49378 xl0
127.0.0.1 127.0.0.1 UH 0 6 lo0
10.0.0/24 link#1 UC 0 0 xl0
192.168.1/24 link#2 UC 0 0 xl1
With the current routing table RouterA will not be able to
reach our Internal Net 2. It does not have a route for 192.168.2.0/24. One way to alleviate this is to manually add the
route. The following command would add the Internal Net 2 network to RouterA's routing table using 192.168.1.2 as
the next hop:
# route add -net 192.168.2.0/24 192.168.1.2
Now RouterA can reach any hosts on the 192.168.2.0/24 network.
The above example is perfect for configuring a static route on a running system.
However, one problem is that the routing information will not persist if you reboot your
FreeBSD machine. The way to handle the addition of a static route is to put it in your
# Add Internal Net 2 as a static route
route_internalnet2="-net 192.168.2.0/24 192.168.1.2"
The static_routes configuration variable is a list of
strings seperated by a space. Each string references to a route name. In our above
example we only have one string in static_routes. This string
is internalnet2. We then add a configuration variable
called route_internalnet2 where
we put all of the configuration parameters we would give to the route(8) command. For
our example above we would have used the command:
# route add -net 192.168.2.0/24 192.168.1.2
so we need "-net 192.168.2.0/24 192.168.1.2".
As said above, we can have more than one string in static_routes. This allows us to create multiple static routes. The
following lines shows an example of adding static routes for the 192.168.0.0/24 and 192.168.1.0/24 networks on
an imaginary router:
route_net1="-net 192.168.0.0/24 192.168.0.1"
route_net2="-net 192.168.1.0/24 192.168.1.1"
We have already talked about how we define our routes to the outside world, but not
about how the outside world finds us.
We already know that routing tables can be set up so that all traffic for a particular
address space (in our examples, a class-C subnet) can be sent to a particular host on
that network, which will forward the packets inbound.
When you get an address space assigned to your site, your service provider will set up
their routing tables so that all traffic for your subnet will be sent down your PPP link
to your site. But how do sites across the country know to send to your ISP?
There is a system (much like the distributed DNS information) that keeps track of all
assigned address-spaces, and defines their point of connection to the Internet Backbone.
The ``Backbone'' are the main trunk lines that carry Internet traffic across the country,
and around the world. Each backbone machine has a copy of a master set of tables, which
direct traffic for a particular network to a specific backbone carrier, and from there
down the chain of service providers until it reaches your network.
It is the task of your service provider to advertise to the backbone sites that they
are the point of connection (and thus the path inward) for your site. This is known as
Sometimes, there is a problem with routing propagation, and some sites are unable to
connect to you. Perhaps the most useful command for trying to figure out where routing is
breaking down is the traceroute(8) command.
It is equally useful if you cannot seem to make a connection to a remote machine (i.e. ping(8) fails).
The traceroute(8) command
is run with the name of the remote host you are trying to connect to. It will show the
gateway hosts along the path of the attempt, eventually either reaching the target host,
or terminating because of a lack of connection.
For more information, see the manual page for traceroute(8).
FreeBSD supports both multicast applications and multicast routing natively. Multicast
applications do not require any special configuration of FreeBSD; applications will
generally run out of the box. Multicast routing requires that support be compiled into
In addition, the multicast routing daemon, mrouted(8) must be
configured to set up tunnels and DVMRP via /etc/mrouted.conf.
More details on multicast configuration may be found in the manual page for mrouted(8).