Running Antrea on Windows

Antrea supports running on Windows worker Nodes. On Windows Nodes, Antrea sets up an overlay network to forward packets between Nodes and implements NetworkPolicies.


On Windows, the Host Networking Service (HNS) is a necessary component to support container networking. For Antrea on Windows, “Transparent” mode is chosen for the HNS network. In this mode, containers will be directly connected to the physical network through an external Hyper-V switch.

OVS is working as a forwarding extension for the external Hyper-V switch which was created by HNS. Hence, the packets that are sent from/to the containers can be processed by OVS. The network adapter used in the HNS Network is also added to the OVS bridge as the uplink interface. An internal interface for the OVS bridge is created, and the original networking configuration (e.g., IP, MAC and routing entries) on the host network adapter is moved to this new interface. Some extra OpenFlow entries are needed to ensure the host traffic can be forwarded correctly.

HNS Integration

Windows NetNat is configured to make sure the Pods can access external addresses. The packet from a Pod to an external address is firstly output to antrea-gw0, and then SNAT is performed on the Windows host. The SNATed packet enters OVS from the OVS bridge interface and leaves the Windows host from the uplink interface directly.

Antrea implements the Kubernetes ClusterIP Service leveraging OVS. Pod-to-ClusterIP-Service traffic is load-balanced and forwarded directly inside the OVS pipeline. And kube-proxy is running on each Windows Node to implement Kubernetes NodePort Service. Kube-proxy captures NodePort Service traffic and sets up a connection to a backend Pod to forwards the request using this connection. The forwarded request enters the OVS pipeline through “antrea-gw0” and is then forwarded to the Pod. To be compatible with OVS, kube-proxy on Windows must be configured to run in userspace mode, and a specific network adapter is required, on which Service IP addresses will be configured by kube-proxy.

HNS Network configuration

HNS Network is created during the Antrea Agent initialization phase, and it should be created before the OVS bridge is created. This is because OVS is working as the Hyper-V Switch Extension, and the ovs-vswitchd process cannot work correctly until the OVS Extension is enabled on the newly created Hyper-V Switch.

When creating the HNS Network, the local subnet CIDR and the uplink network adapter are required. Antrea Agent finds the network adapter from the Windows host using the Node’s internal IP as a filter, and retrieves the local Subnet CIDR from the Node spec.

After the HNS Network is created, OVS extension should be enabled at once on the Hyper-V Switch.

Container network configuration

host-local plugin is used to provide IPAM for containers, and the address is allocated from the subnet CIDR configured on the HNS Network.

Windows HNS Endpoint is leveraged as the vNIC for each container. A single HNS Endpoint with the IP allocated by the IPAM plugin is created for each Pod. The HNS Endpoint should be attached to all containers in the same Pod to ensure that the network configuration can be correctly accessed (this operation is to make sure the DNS configuration is readable from all containers).

One OVS internal port with the same name as the HNS Endpoint is also needed, in order to handle container traffic with OpenFlow rules. OpenFlow entries are installed to implement Pod-to-Pod, Pod-to-external and Pod-to-ClusterIP-Service connectivity.

CNIAdd request might be called multiple times for a given Pod. This is because kubelet on Windows assumes CNIAdd is an idempotent event, and it uses this event to query the Pod networking status. Antrea needs to identify the container type (sandbox or workload) from the CNIAdd request:

  • we create the HNS Endpoint only when the request is for the sandbox container
  • we attach the HNS Endpoint no matter whether it is a sandbox container or a workload container.

Gateway port configuration

The gateway port is created during the Antrea Agent initialization phase, and the address of the interface should be the first IP in the subnet. The port is an OVS internal port and its default name is “antrea-gw0”.

The gateway port is used to help implement L3 connectivity for the containers, including Pod-to-external, and Node-to-Pod. For the Pod-to-external case, OpenFlow entries are installed in order to output these packets to the host on the gateway port. To ensure the packet is forwarded correctly on the host, the IP-Forwarding feature should be enabled on the network adapter of the gateway port.

A routing entry for traffic from the Node to the local Pod subnet is needed on the Windows host to ensure that the packet can enter the OVS pipeline on the gateway port. This routing entry is added when “antrea-gw0” is created.

Every time a new Node joins the cluster, a host routing entry on the gateway port is required, and the remote subnet CIDR should be routed with the remote gateway address as the nexthop.

Tunnel port configuration

Tunnel port configuration should be similar to Antrea on Linux:

  • tunnel port is added after OVS bridge is created;
  • a flow-based tunnel with the appropriate remote address is created for each Node in the cluster with OpenFlow.

The only difference with Antrea on Linux is that the tunnel local address is required when creating the tunnel port (provided with local_ip option). This local address is the one configured on the OVS bridge.

OVS bridge interface configuration

Since OVS is also responsible for taking charge of the network of the host, an interface for the OVS bridge is required on which the host network settings are configured. The virtual network adapter which is created when creating the HNS Network is used as the OVS bridge interface. The virtual network adapter is renamed as the expected OVS bridge name, then the OVS bridge port is created. Hence, OVS can find the virtual network adapter with the name and attach it directly. Windows host has configured the virtual network adapter with IP, MAC and route entries which were originally on the uplink interface when creating the HNSNetwork, as a result, no extra manual IP/MAC/Route configurations on the OVS bridge are needed.

The packets that are sent to/from the Windows host should be forwarded on this interface. So the OVS bridge is also a valid entry point into the OVS pipeline. A special ofport number 65534 (named as LOCAL) for the OVS bridge is used in OpenFlow spec.

In the OVS Classifier table, new OpenFlow entries are needed to match the packets from this interface. The packet entering OVS from this interface is output to the uplink interface directly.

After the OVS bridge is created, the original physical adapter is added to the OVS bridge as the uplink interface. The uplink interface is used to support traffic from Pods accessing the world outside current host.

We should differentiate the traffic if it is entering OVS from the uplink interface in OVS Classifier table. In encap mode, the packets entering OVS from the uplink interface is output to the bridge interface directly. In noEncap mode, there are three kinds of packets entering OVS from the uplink interface:

  1. Traffic that is sent to local Pods from Pod on a different Node
  2. Traffic that is sent to local Pods from a different Node according to the routing configuration
  3. Traffic on the host network

For 1 and 2, the packet enters the OVS pipeline, and the macRewriteMark is set to ensure the destination MAC can be modified. For 3, the packet is output to the OVS bridge interface directly.

The packet is always output to the uplink interface if it is entering OVS from the bridge interface. We also output the Pod traffic to the uplink interface in noEncap mode, if the destination is a Pod on a different Node, or if it is a reply packet to the request which is sent from a different Node. Then we can reduce the cost that the packet enters OVS twice (OVS -> Windows host -> OVS).

Following are the OpenFlow entries for uplink interface in encap mode.

Classifier Table: 0
table=0, priority=200, in_port=$uplink actions=LOCAL
table=0, priority=200, in_port=LOCAL actions=output:$uplink

Following is an example for the OpenFlow entries related with uplink interface in noEncap mode.

Classifier Table: 0
table=0, priority=210, ip, in_port=$uplink, nw_dst=$localPodSubnet, actions=load:0x4->NXM_NX_REG0[0..15],load:0x
table=0, priority=200, in_port=$uplink actions=LOCAL
table=0, priority=200, in_port=LOCAL actions=output:$uplink

L3Forwarding Table: 70
// Rewrite the destination MAC with the Node's MAC on which target Pod is located.
table=70, priority=200,ip,nw_dst=$peerPodSubnet actions=mod_dl_dst:$peerNodeMAC,resubmit(,80)
// Rewrite the destination MAC with the Node's MAC if it is a reply for the access from the Node.
table=70, priority=200,ct_state=+rpl+trk,ip,nw_dst=$peerNodeIP actions=mod_dl_dst:$peerNodeMAC,resubmit(,80)

L2ForwardingCalcTable: 80
table=80, priority=200,dl_dst=$peerNodeMAC actions=load:$uplink->NXM_NX_REG1[],set_field:0x10000/0x10000->reg0,resubmit(,105)

SNAT configuration

SNAT is an important feature of the Antrea Agent on Windows Nodes, required to support Pods accessing external addresses. It is implemented using the NAT capability of the Windows host.

To support this feature, we configure NetNat on the Windows host for the Pod subnet:

New-NetNat -Name antrea-nat -InternalIPInterfaceAddressPrefix $localPodSubnet

The packet that is sent from local Pod to an external address leaves OVS from antrea-gw0 and enters Windows host, and SNAT action is performed. The SNATed address is chosen by Windows host according to the routing configuration. As for the reply packet of the Pod-to-external traffic, it enters Windows host and performs de-SNAT first, and then the packet enters OVS from antrea-gw0 and is forwarded to the Pod finally.

Using Windows named pipe for internal connections

Named pipe is used for local connections on Windows Nodes instead of Unix Domain Socket (UDS). It is used in these scenarios:

  • OVSDB connection
  • OpenFlow connection
  • The connection between CNI plugin and CNI server

Antrea Management on Windows

Antrea Agent Management

The Antrea Agent is running as a process on the Windows Node, but it is managed using a DaemonSet. The utility Rancher Wins is used to manage the host process from inside the DaemonSet Pod. The Antrea Agent is configured using a ConfigMap, and the environment variables are set by kubelet on Windows.

OVS Management

OVS is running as 2 Windows Services: one for ovsdb-server and one for ovs-vswitchd.

Traffic walkthrough

Pod-to-Pod Traffic

The intra-Node Pod-to-Pod traffic and inter-Node Pod-to-Pod traffic are the same as Antrea on Linux. It is processed and forwarded by OVS, and controlled with OpenFlow entries.

Service Traffic

Kube-proxy userspace mode is configured to provide NodePort Service function. A specific Network Adapter named “HNS Internal NIC” is provided to kube-proxy to configure Service addresses. The OpenFlow entries for the NodePort Service traffic on Windows are the same as those on Linux.

AntreaProxy implements the ClusterIP Service function. Antrea Agent installs routes to send ClusterIP Service traffic from host network to the OVS bridge. For each Service, it adds a route that routes the traffic via a virtual IP (, and it also adds a route to indicate that the virtual IP is reachable via antrea-gw0. The reason to add a virtual IP, rather than routing the traffic directly to antrea-gw0, is that then only one neighbor cache entry needs to be added, which resolves the virtual IP to a virtual MAC.

When a Service’s endpoints are in hostNetwork or external network, a request packet will have its destination IP DNAT’d to the selected endpoint IP and its source IP will be SNAT’d to the virtual IP ( Such SNAT is needed for sending the reply packets back to the OVS pipeline from the host network, whose destination IP was the Node IP before d-SNATed to the virtual IP. Check the packet forwarding path described below.

For a request packet from host, it will enter OVS pipeline via antrea-gw0 and exit via antrea-gw0 as well to host network. On Windows host, with the help of NetNat, the request packet’s source IP will be SNAT’d again to Node IP.

The reply packets are the reverse for both situations regardless of whether the endpoint is in ClusterCIDR or not.

The following path is an example of host accessing a Service whose endpoint is a hostNetwork Pod on another Node. The request packet is like:

host -> antrea-gw0 -> OVS pipeline -> antrea-gw0 -> host NetNat -> br-int -> OVS pipeline -> peer Node
                           |                            |
                   DNAT(peer Node IP)              SNAT(Node IP)
                    SNAT(virtual IP)

The forwarding path of a reply packet is like:

peer Node -> OVS pipeline -> br-int -> host NetNat -> antrea-gw0 -> OVS pipeline -> antrea-gw0 -> host
                                           |                              |
                                   d-SNAT(virtual IP)          d-SNAT(antrea-gw0 IP)
                                                                d-DNAT(Service IP)

External Traffic

The Pod-to-external traffic leaves the OVS pipeline from the gateway interface, and then is SNATed on the Windows host. If the packet should leave Windows host from OVS uplink interface according to the routing configuration on the Windows host, it is forwarded to OVS bridge first on which the host IP is configured, and then output to the uplink interface by OVS pipeline.

The corresponding reply traffic will enter OVS from the uplink interface first, and then enter the host from the OVS bridge interface. It is de-SNATed on the host and then back to OVS from antre-gw0 and forwarded to the Pod finally. Traffic to external

Host Traffic

In “Transparent” mode, the Antrea Agent should also support the host traffic when necessary, which includes packets sent from the host to external addresses, and the ones sent from external addresses to the host.

The host traffic enters OVS bridge and output to the uplink interface if the destination is reachable from the network adapter which is plugged on OVS as uplink. For the reverse path, the packet enters OVS from the uplink interface first, and then directly output to the bridge interface and enters Windows host. For the traffic that is connected to the Windows network adapters other than the OVS uplink interface, it is managed by Windows host.

Getting Started

To help you get started, see the documentation.