The AWS ENI datapath is enabled when Cilium is run with the option --ipam=eni. It is a special purpose datapath that is useful when running Cilium in an AWS environment.

Advantages of the model

  • Pods are assigned ENI IPs which are directly routable in the AWS VPC. This simplifies communication of pod traffic within VPCs and avoids the need for SNAT.
  • Pod IPs are assigned a security group. The security groups for pods are configured per node which allows to create node pools and give different security group assignments to different pods. See section AWS ENI for more details.

Disadvantages of this model

  • The number of ENI IPs is limited per instance. The limit depends on the EC2 instance type. This can become a problem when attempting to run a larger number of pods on very small instance types.
  • Allocation of ENIs and ENI IPs requires interaction with the EC2 API which is subject to rate limiting. This is primarily mitigated via the operator design, see section AWS ENI for more details.



  1. Traffic is received on one of the ENIs attached to the instance which is represented on the node as interface ethN.

  2. An IP routing rule ensures that traffic to all local pod IPs is done using the main routing table:

    20:      from all to lookup main
  3. The main routing table contains an exact match route to steer traffic into a veth pair which is hooked into the pod: dev lxc5a4def8d96c5
  4. All traffic passing lxc5a4def8d96c5 on the way into the pod is subject to Cilium’s BPF program to enforce network policies, provide service reverse load-balancing, and visibility.


  1. The pod’s network namespace contains a default route which points to the node’s router IP via the veth pair which is named eth0 inside of the pod and lxcXXXXXX in the host namespace. The router IP is allocated from the ENI space, allowing for sending of ICMP errors from the router IP for Path MTU purposes.

  2. After passing through the veth pair and before reaching the Linux routing layer, all traffic is subject to Cilium’s BPF program to enforce network policies, implement load-balancing and provide networking features.

  3. An IP routing rule ensures that traffic from individual endpoints are using a routing table specific to the ENI from which the endpoint IP was allocated:

    30:      from to lookup 92
  4. The ENI specific routing table contains a default route which redirects to the router of the VPC via the ENI interface:

    default via dev eth2 dev eth2


The AWS ENI datapath is enabled by setting the following option:

  • ipam: eni Enables the ENI specific IPAM backend and indicates to the datapath that ENI IPs will be used.
  • blacklist-conflicting-routes: "false" disables blacklisting of local routes. This is required as routes will exist covering ENI IPs pointing to interfaces that are not owned by Cilium. If blacklisting is not disabled, all ENI IPs would be considered used by another networking component.
  • enable-endpoint-routes: "true" enables direct routing to the ENI veth pairs without requiring to route via the cilium_host interface.
  • auto-create-cilium-node-resource: "true" enables the automatic creation of the CiliumNode custom resource with all required ENI parameters. It is possible to disable this and provide the custom resource manually.
  • egress-masquerade-interfaces: eth+ is the interface selector of all interfaces which are subject to masquerading. Masquerading can be disabled entirely with masquerade: "false".

See the section AWS ENI for details on how to configure ENI IPAM specific parameters.