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'The Calico Cloud data path: IP routing and iptables'

One of Calico Cloud’s key features is how packets flow between workloads in a data center, or between a workload and the Internet, without additional encapsulation.

In the Calico Cloud approach, IP packets to or from a workload are routed and firewalled by the Linux routing table and iptables or eBPF infrastructure on the workload’s host. For a workload that is sending packets, Calico Cloud ensures that the host is always returned as the next hop MAC address regardless of whatever routing the workload itself might configure. For packets addressed to a workload, the last IP hop is that from the destination workload’s host to the workload itself.

Calico datapath

Suppose that IPv4 addresses for the workloads are allocated from a datacenter-private subnet of 10.65/16, and that the hosts have IP addresses from 172.18.203/24. If you look at the routing table on a host:

route -n

You will see something like this:

Kernel IP routing table
Destination Gateway Genmask Flags Metric Ref Use Iface UG 0 0 0 eth0 U 0 0 0 ns-db03ab89-b4 UGH 0 0 0 eth0 UGH 0 0 0 eth0 UGH 0 0 0 eth0 UH 0 0 0 tapa429fb36-04 U 0 0 0 eth0

There is one workload on this host with IP address, and accessible from the host via a TAP (or veth, etc.) interface named tapa429fb36-04. Hence there is a direct route for, through tapa429fb36-04. Other workloads, with the .21, .22 and .23 addresses, are hosted on two other hosts ( and .129), so the routes for those workload addresses are via those hosts.

The direct routes are set up by a Calico Cloud agent named Felix when it is asked to provision connectivity for a particular workload. A BGP client (such as BIRD) then notices those and distributes them – perhaps via a route reflector – to BGP clients running on other hosts, and hence the indirect routes appear also.

Is that all?​

As far as the static data path is concerned, yes. It’s just a combination of responding to workload ARP requests with the host MAC, IP routing and iptables or eBPF. There’s a great deal more to Calico Cloud in terms of how the required routing and security information is managed, and for handling dynamic things such as workload migration – but the basic data path really is that simple.