MetalLB in ARP/NDP mode

In ARP/NDP mode, one node in your cluster assumes the responsibility of advertising all service IPs to the local network. From the network’s perspective, it simply looks like that machine has multiple IP addresses assigned to its network interface.

ARP mode does this by listening for ARP requests, and responding to requests for the service IPs it knows about. NDP mode does the same thing for IPv6 addresses, using NDP instead of ARP on the wire.

The major advantage of the ARP and NDP modes are their universality: they will work on any ethernet network, with no special hardware required, not even fancy routers.

Load-balancing behavior

In ARP and NDP mode, all traffic for all service IPs goes to one node. From there, kube-proxy spreads the traffic to all the service’s pods.

In that sense, the ARP and NDP modes do not implement a load-balancer. Rather, they implement a failover mechanism so that a different node can take over should the current leader node fail for some reason.


ARP and NDP mode have two main limitations you should be aware of: single-node bottlenecking, and potentially slow failover.

As explained above, in ARP and NDP mode a single leader-elected node receives all traffic for all service IPs. This means that your cluster ingress bandwidth is limited to the bandwidth of a single node. This is a fundamental limitation of using ARP and NDP to steer traffic.

In the current implementation of, failover between nodes depends on cooperation from the clients. When a failover occurs, MetalLB sends a number of gratuitous ARP/NDP packets (a bit of a misnomer - it should really be called “unsolicited ARP/NDP packets”) to notify clients that the MAC address associated with the service IPs has changed.

Most operating systems handle “gratuitous” packets correctly, and update their neighbor caches promptly. In that case, failover happens within a few seconds. However, some systems either don’t implement gratuitous handling at all, or have buggy implementations that delay the cache update.

All modern versions of major OSes (Windows, Mac, Linux) implement ARP/NDP failover correctly, so the only situation where issues may happen is with older or less common OSes.

To minimize the impact of planned failover on buggy clients, you should keep the old leader node up for a couple of minutes after flipping leadership, so that it can continue forwarding traffic for old clients until their caches refresh.

During an unplanned failover, the service IPs will be unreachable until the buggy clients refresh their cache entries.

If you encounter a situation where ARP or NDP failover is slow (more than about 10s), please file a bug! We can help you investigate and determine if the issue is with the client, or a bug in MetalLB.