Configure multiple network interfaces for Pods

This document describes how to configure Anthos clusters on VMware (GKE on-prem) to provide multiple network interfaces, multi-NIC, for your Pods. The multi-NIC for Pods feature can help separate control plane traffic from data plane traffic, creating isolation between planes. Additional network interfaces also enable multicast capability for your Pods. Multi-NIC for Pods is supported for user clusters, it is not allowed for admin clusters.

Network plane isolation is important for systems using network functions virtualizations (NFVs), such as software-defined networking in a wide area network (SD-WAN), a cloud access security broker (CASB), and next-generation firewalls (NG-FWs). These types of NFVs rely on access to multiple interfaces to keep the control and data planes separate.

The multiple network interface configuration supports associating network interfaces with node pools, which can provide performance benefits. For example, a cluster can contain a mix of node types. When you group high-performance machines into one node pool, you can create additional interfaces to the node pool to improve traffic flow.

Set up multiple network interfaces

Generally, there are three steps to set up multiple network interfaces for your Pods:

  1. Enable multi-NIC for your user cluster by using the multipleNetworkInterfaces and enableDataplaneV2 fields in the cluster configuration file.

  2. Specify network interfaces with the additionalNodeInterfaces section in the cluster configuration file, and create one or more NetworkAttachmentDefinition custom resources.

  3. Assign network interfaces to Pods with the annotation.

Enable multi-NIC

Enable multi-NIC for your Pods by setting the multipleNetworkInterfaces and enableDataplaneV2 fields in the user cluster configuration file to true.

apiVersion: v1
multipleNetworkInterfaces: true
enableDataplaneV2: true

Specify network interfaces

In the cluster configuration file, specify additional node network interfaces in the additionalNodeInterfaces section.

For example, here is a portion of a user cluster configuration file showing an additional node network interface:

apiVersion: v1
multipleNetworkInterfaces: true
enableDataplaneV2: true
  serviceCIDR: ""
  podCIDR: ""
    networkName: network-private310
  # New multiple network configs
  - networkName: "gke-network-1"
    ipBlockFilePath: "my-block-yaml"
    type: static

After creating a cluster with the preceding configuration, you have to create one or more NetworkAttachmentDefinition (NAD) custom resources in your user cluster where you specify additional network interfaces. The NetworkAttachmentDefinitions correspond to the networks that are available for your Pods. The following example shows a manifest for a NetworkAttachmentDefinition:

apiVersion: ""
kind: NetworkAttachmentDefinition
  name: gke-network-1
  namespace: default
  config: '{
  "type": "ipvlan",
  "master": "ens224", # defines the node interface that this Pod interface would map to
  "mode": "l2",
  "ipam": {
    "type": "whereabouts",
    "range": ""

Save the manifest as a YAML file, for example, my-nad.yaml, and create the NetworkAttachmentDefinition:

kubectl --kubeconfig [USER_CLUSTER_KUBECONFIG] apply -f my-nad.yaml

Assign network interfaces to a Pod

Use the annotation to assign one or more network interfaces to a Pod. Each network interface is specified with a namespace and the name of a NetworkAttachmentDefinition, separated by a forward slash (/). Use a comma-separated list to specify multiple network interfaces.

In the following example, two network interfaces are assigned to the samplepod Pod. The network interfaces are specified by names of two NetworkAttachmentDefinitions, gke-network-1 and gke-network-2, that were created in the default namespace.

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  name: samplepod
  annotations: default/gke-network-1,default/gke-network-2

Restrict network interfaces to a set of nodes

If you do not want a NetworkAttachmentDefinition to be applicable to an entire cluster, you can limit its functionality to a set of nodes.

You can group cluster nodes either by using the standard label assigned to the node or your own custom label. You can then specify the node label in the NetworkAttachmentDefinition manifest using the annotation. Anthos clusters on VMware forces any Pods that reference this custom resource to be deployed on those nodes that have this label.

apiVersion: ""
kind: NetworkAttachmentDefinition
  annotations: LABEL_KEY=LABEL_VALUE
  name: gke-network-1

The following example shows the my-label=multinicNP label indicated on the NetworkAttachmentDefinition, and forces deployment of all Pods that are assigned the gke-network-1 network to the nodes that have this label.

apiVersion: ""
kind: NetworkAttachmentDefinition
  annotations: my-label=multinicNP
  name: gke-network-1

To apply a custom label to a node, use the kubectl label nodes command:


Replace the following:

  • NODE_NAME: the name of the Node you are labeling.
  • LABEL_KEY: the key to use for your label.
  • LABEL_VALUE: the label value.

In this example, the node my-node is given the environment=production label:

kubectl --kubeconfig [USER_CLUSTER_KUBECONFIG] label nodes my-node environment=production

Security concerns

A NetworkAttachmentDefinition provides full access to a network, so cluster administrators must be cautious about providing create, update, or delete access to other users. If a given NetworkAttachmentDefinition has to be isolated, you can specify a non-default namespace when creating it, where only the Pods from that namespace can access it.

In the following diagram, Pods from the default namespace can't access the network interface in the privileged namespace.

Use of namespaces to isolate network traffic

Supported CNI plugins

This section lists the CNI plugins supported by the multi-NIC feature for Anthos clusters on VMware. Use only the following plugins when specifying a NetworkAttachmentDefinition.

Interface creation:

  • ipvlan
  • macvlan
  • bridge

Meta plugins:

  • portmap
  • sbr
  • tuning

IPAM plugins:

  • host-local
  • static
  • whereabouts

Route configuration

A Pod with one or more assigned NetworkAttachmentDefinitions has multiple network interfaces. By default, the Pod's routing table in this situation is extended with the locally available additional interfaces from assigned NetworkAttachmentDefinitions only. Packets bound for the default gateway are still configured to use the default interface of the Pod, eth0. You can modify this behavior by using the following CNI plugins:

  • sbr
  • static
  • whereabouts

For example, you might want most traffic to go through the default gateway, which means the traffic will go over the default network interface. However, you want some specific traffic to go over one of the non-default interfaces. Traffic can be difficult to disambiguate based on destination IP (normal routing), because the same endpoint is available over both the interface types. In this case, source-based routing (SBR) can help.

SBR plugin

The sbr plugin gives the application control over routing decisions. The application controls what is used as the source IP address of the connection it establishes. When the application chooses to use the NetworkAttachmentDefinition's IP address for its source IP, packets land in the additional routing table sbr has set up. The sbr routing table sends traffic through its own default gateway, which will go over the NetworkAttachmentDefinition's interface. The default gateway IP inside that table is controlled with the gateway field inside whereabouts or static plugins. The sbr plugin runs as a chained plugin. For more information about the sbr plugin, including usage information, see Source-based routing plugin.

The following example shows "gateway":"" set in whereabouts, and sbr set as chained plugin after ipvlan:

# ip route
default via dev eth0  mtu 1500 dev eth0 scope link
# ip route list table 100
default via dev net1 dev net1 proto kernel scope link src

Static and whereabouts plugins

The whereabouts plugin is basically an extension of the static plugin and these two share the routing configuration. For a configuration example, see static IP address management plugin. You can define a gateway and route to add to the Pod's routing table. You can't, however, modify the default gateway of the Pod in this way.

The following example shows the addition of "routes": [{ "dst": "" }] in the NetworkAttachmentDefinition:

# ip route
default via dev eth0  mtu 1500 via dev net1 dev net1 proto kernel scope link src dev eth0 scope link

Configuration examples

This section illustrates some of the common network configurations supported by the multi-NIC feature.

Single network attachment used by multiple Pods:

Single network attachment used by multiple pods

Multiple network attachments used by single Pod:

Multiple network attachments used by single pod

Multiple network attachments pointing to same interface used by single Pod:

Multiple network attachments pointing to same interface used by single pod

Same network attachment used multiple times by single Pod:

Same network attachment used multiple times by single pod


If additional network interfaces are misconfigured, the Pods to which they are assigned don't start. This section highlights how to find information for troubleshooting issues with the multi-NIC feature.

Check Pod events

Multus reports failures through Kubernetes Pod events. Use the following kubectl describe command to view events for a given Pod:

kubectl describe pod POD_NAME

Check logs

For each node, you can find Whereabouts and Multus logs at the following locations:

  • /var/log/whereabouts.log
  • /var/log/multus.log

Review Pod interfaces

Use the kubectl exec command to check your Pod interfaces. Once the NetworkAttachmentDefinitions are successfully applied, the Pod interfaces look like the following output:

user@node1:~$ kubectl exec samplepod-5c6df74f66-5jgxs -- ip a
1: lo: <LOOPBACK,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 65536 qdisc noqueue state UNKNOWN group default qlen 1000
    link/loopback 00:00:00:00:00:00 brd 00:00:00:00:00:00
    inet scope host lo
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
2: net1: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc noqueue state UNKNOWN group default
    link/ether 00:50:56:82:3e:f0 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
    inet scope global net1
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
38: eth0@if39: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc noqueue state UP group default
    link/ether 36:23:79:a9:26:b3 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff link-netnsid 0
    inet scope global eth0
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever

Get Pod status

Use the kubectl get to retrieve the network status for a given Pod:

kubectl get pods POD_NAME -oyaml

Here's a sample output that shows the status of a Pod with multiple networks:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  annotations: |-
          "name": "",
          "interface": "eth0",
          "ips": [
          "mac": "36:0e:29:e7:42:ad",
          "default": true,
          "dns": {}
          "name": "default/gke-network-1",
          "interface": "net1",
          "ips": [
          "mac": "00:50:56:82:a7:ab",
          "dns": {}
      }] gke-network-1