NSX: Bridging between VXLAN and VLAN

After you prepared your vSphere clusters for VXLAN you’re eager to start building your SDDC network. You provision some logical switches, a distributed logical router and maybe even an edge services gateway. Before you know it you are doing full-fledged network virtualization. It’s simple enough, right?

But then you realize you still have other virtual workloads and possibly all kind of physical equipment residing on that other network: The VLAN-based network.

Of course this is (hopefully) not the way you rollout VXLAN in your SDDC. Just like any other major change in your network (logical or physical) some kind of planning is required here. You should at least create a solid design for the VXLAN structure, the IP subnets, IP routing, and how it all connects and propagates to the physical network before you start implementing VXLAN. Things might get really complicated if you don’t.

But even with all the planning in the world you still might end up with workloads and equipment that for various reasons are stuck on VLANs. On top of that, some of these workloads require to be on the same L2 segment as the virtual workloads that you planned on migrating to VXLANs. This can be a short term (transitioning etc) or a long term requirement.

A helping hand

NSX BridgeOne component of NSX-V that comes in handy in a situation like this is the L2 bridge. The L2 bridge has a number of use cases including:

  • Migration: Physical to virtual, or virtual to virtual  without requiring re-IP.
  • Connectivity: Physical workloads not suitable for virtualization can maintain connectivity with virtual workloads inside of NSX.
  • Service insertion: Transparent integration of any physical appliance such as a router, load balancer or firewall into NSX.

There are some prerequisites and limitations:

  • L2 bridging requires a distributed logical router with a control VM
  • The VXLAN network and VLAN-backed port groups must be on the same distributed virtual switch and use the same physical NICs.
  • VLAN-backed port group must be configured with a VLAN ID (between 1 and 4094).
  • Don’t use a L2 bridge to connect a logical switch to another logical switch, a VLAN network to another VLAN network, or to interconnect data centers.
  • You can’t use a Universal logical router to configure bridging and you cannot add a bridge to a universal logical switch (cross-vCenter NSX objects).
  • A logical router can have multiple bridging instances, however, the routing and bridging instances cannot share the same VXLAN/VLAN network. Traffic to and from the bridged VLAN and bridged VXLAN cannot be routed to the bridged network and vice versa.
  • The recommended maximum is 500 bridging instances per distributed logical router. A number you’ll hopefully never need.

Configuring a L2 Bridge

The L2 bridge is configured with a couple of clicks over at the distributed logical router. Yes, a couple of API calls does the trick too.

At the DLR click the Manage tab and then Bridging. Click the green plus sign to add a bridge:

Skärmavbild 2018-09-08 kl. 19.48.50.pngType a name for the bridge and select a logical switch (VXLAN) and a distributed virtual port group (VLAN-backed). Click OK and don’t forget to publish your changes.

That’s all there is to it. You’re now bridging between a VXLAN and a VLAN.

Conclusion

VXLAN-VLAN bridging is not necessarily something you want to do over a long period of time as it adds some complexity to your environment. That being said, there are scenarios (mentioned above) where the L2 bridge is the right solution and it’s good to know that setting this up in NSX-V is a breeze.