How to enable broadcast and multicast support on Amazon (AWS) EC2

This article explains how to enable broadcast and multicast support on Amazon (AWS) EC2, which is required for certain enterprise applications and protocols.


  1. Introduction
  2. Software used
  3. Installation guide
  4. Post installation instructions
  5. Tests and performance
  6. Transfer of one large file to establish consistent throughput
  7. ZMQ Performance, throughput test
  8. OpenVPN, without encryption
  9. TIPC - An example of multicast and broadcast in action using n2n
  10. Summary


*Updated Aug 2018*

Broadcast and multicast support is a requirement of many enterprise applications and clustering stacks. However, in our experience, the choice of hosting providers who can effectively execute these networking features is somewhat limited. This means that more expensive co-location is required. It is much the same situation with many cloud providers, who do not provide broadcast and multicast support. Currently, AWS do not officially support broadcast or multicast out of the box, so the only solution if you require instant results is to use another cloud provider, such as Rackspace.

However, as AWS certified consultants, we wanted broadcast and multicast support within the AWS EC2 network as we currently utilise other AWS products and services and wanted to engineer our way out of the problem, so we set about creating our own solution.

Firstly, we're using AWS VPC (Virtual private cloud) instances (any size is supported). To enable Layer 2 communication over the network we are using n2n Peer-to-Peer VPN software which is bound to the internal Ethernet adapter of the AWS VPC instance. As n2n is a secure VPN server it ships by default with encryption and compression. We removed the encryption and compression as it's not required over a AWS VPC connection (Read more about VPC security). For this demonstration we created a VPC with one subnet, in one availability zone. We used four "m1.small" EM2 instances with public IP addresses. Do not forget adjust Security group(s) to only allow access from the internal network, which in our example is:

Network configuration of VPC Instances

Server name Role IP Address VPN IP Address
test1 supernode none
test2 VPN client
test3 VPN client
test4 VPN client

Software used

  • Operating system: Ubuntu (16.04 LTS)
  • n2n Peer-to-Peer VPN
  • ZeroMQ

Installation Guide

Although n2n is available via the official Ubuntu repository, we will instead download the source code, as small tweaks have to be made to disable compression and encryption. In order to checkout the source code, git is required. Once git is installed, proceed to the commands below.

You can use your favorite text editor, but for this demonstration we're using vi, you may substitute with nano or any other

root@test1 $ git checkout .
root@test1 $ cd n2n/n2n_v2

Disable encryption

root@test1 $ vi MakeFile

Search for


and change it to


Now disable compression

root@test1 $ vi n2n.h

Search for


Change it to


Once the files have been edited, we need to compile n2n by typing the following command from within the n2n folder

root@test1 $ make

Once make has been successfully run, you will see two binaries, supernode and edge.

supernode is only required on the supernode server, and edge is required on the others.

Compile n2n on every test server in the same way, or simply copy the edge binary to each server.

The supernode which is responsible for introducing new VPN clients and the edge is used to connect. The VPN clients initially discover each other by using the supernode, but after a connection has been established they never directly communicate through the supernode. This allows us to avoid network bottlenecks and to also mitigate the single point of failure which is present in a star architecture VPN network. If the supernode were to fail, the VPN would continue to function, but no new VPN nodes would be able to register. If we wanted a hot standby for redundancy then another EC2 instance with supernode configured, can be started up using standard AWS failover over procedures.

Post Installation Instructions

On server test1, start supernode

root@test1 $ sudo ./supernode -l 1200

If you haven't blocked access from public Internet traffic to the supernode server, you can achieve this with Iptables by executing the following command

root@test1 $ sudo iptables -I INPUT ! -s -m udp -p udp --dport 1200  -j DROP

Now on server test2, start the VPN client

root@test2 $ sudo ./edge -l -c Buckhill -a

Check interface by typing

root@test2 $ ifconfig edge0

You should see the following output

edge0     Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr c6:9b:6f:bf:cb:49
inet addr:  Bcast:  Mask:
inet6 addr: fe80::c49b:6fff:febf:cb49/64 Scope:Link
RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
TX packets:5 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
collisions:0 txqueuelen:500
RX bytes:0 (0.0 B)  TX bytes:418 (418.0 B)

On server test3, start the VPN client

root@test3 $ sudo ./edge -l -c Buckhill -a

Now check VPN connectivity on server test3 by typing

root@test3 $ ping -c 1

The results should look like this

PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=0.906 ms

--- ping statistics ---
1 packets transmitted, 1 received, 0% packet loss, time 0ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 0.906/0.906/0.906/0.000 ms

You can now connect as many nodes as required.

Testing and performance

Depending on your network requirements it's important to establish the throughput and overhead created by operating over a VPN. In order to determine this we performed two type of tests, between two nodes over the newly created VPN network.

Transfer of one large file to establish consistent throughput

On test2 server netcat was started in listen mode

root@test2 $ nc -l 5001 > /dev/null

On test3 server the 1GB file was created and sent over the network to test2

root@test3 $ dd if=/dev/urandom bs=1M count=1000 of=/tmp/big_file

The results look like this

1000+0 records in
1000+0 records out
1048576000 bytes (1.0 GB) copied, 309.952 s, 3.4 MB/s

root@test3 $ cat if=/tmp/big_file |pv|nc 5001
1e+03MB 0:00:25 [38.7MB/s] [                                        ]

If you wish to re-produce our ZeroMQ demonstrations shown below, you will need to install ZeroMQ 4.1 with TIPC support. Due to the complexity of this process, it is outside the scope of this article.

ZMQ Performance, throughput test

The tests used by us are standard ZMQ tests which come built in with libzmq

On server test2 start receiver

root@test2 $ ./local_thr tcp://*:5555 4096 100000

For this test we used a 4KB message size, which is bigger than the average request in our own applications. It is above the MTU of the network adapter.

On server test3, start the test

root@test3 $ ./remote_thr tcp:// 4096 100000


In order to compare results with another VPN service or product, we performed tests using OpenVPN in a Point 2 Point topology.

OpenVPN, without encryption

From server test2

root@test2 $ sudo openvpn --cipher none --proto udp  --dev tun --comp-lzo --auth none --prng none --mode p2p
--ifconfig  --port 1194

From server test3

root@test3 $ sudo openvpn --cipher none --proto udp  --dev tun --comp-lzo --auth none --prng none --mode p2p
--ifconfig  --remote 1194

OpenVPN without encryption and compression

From server test 2

root@test2 $ sudo openvpn --cipher none --proto udp  --dev tun --auth none --prng none --mode p2p
--ifconfig  --port 1194

From server test3

root@test3 $ sudo openvpn --cipher none --proto udp  --dev tun --auth none
--prng none --mode p2p --ifconfig  --remote 1194

Test results


Name in graph Description
eth Ethernet device
n2n n2n vpn with encryption and compression enabled
n2n -e n2n vpn with encryption disabled
n2n -e -c n2n vpn with encryption and compression disabled
OVPN -e OpenVPN with encryption disabled
OVPN -e -c OpenVPN with encryption and compression disabled

Transfer rate, large file

Transfer rate

ZeroMQ messages per second

ZeroMQ messages per second

ZeroMQ bandwidth test

ZeroMQ bandwidth test

Messages per second, based on message size

Message Size

We also performed a ZMQ benchmark of the throughput (messages per second), in relation to the messages size.

If the message fits into n2n's MTU, which is 1400, it will not be fragmented. Usually request headers are below 1KB in size, so a higher amount of messages per second can be achieved compared to a 4KB request.

Another conclusion we've drawn is that bandwidth maximum capacity doesn't differ more than 10% in relation to the message size.

An example of multicast and broadcast in action using n2n and TIPC

Our applications make use of the TIPC protocol, which operates on top of Layer 2 packet networks. Using Amazon's EC2 we can't access that network layer. The following demonstrates how a customised n2n VPN solves this problem.

TIPC reference:

Configuring TIPC nodes is taken from

For this demonstration we needed one extra server, called test4, which is also a member of the n2n VPN network

Our TIPC configuration

root@test2 $ sudo modprobe tipc && sudo tipc-config -a=1.1.2 -be=eth:edge0
root@test3 $ sudo modprobe tipc && sudo tipc-config -a=1.1.3 -be=eth:edge0
root@test4 $ sudo modprobe tipc && sudo tipc-config -a=1.1.4 -be=eth:edge0

The multicast_demo from TIPC utilities is used for the following demonstration

On servers test2 and test3 run the listener

root@test2 $ ./multicast_demo/server_tipc
Server: port {18888,300,399} created
Server: port {18888,200,299} created
Server: port {18888,100,199} created
Server: port {18888,0,99} created
root@test3 $ ./multicast_demo/server_tipc
Server: port {18888,300,399} created
Server: port {18888,200,299} created
Server: port {18888,100,199} created
Server: port {18888,0,99} created

On the fourth server a message is sent over multicast

root@test4 $ sudo ./multicast_demo/client_tipc
****** TIPC client multicast demo started ******
Client: sending message to {18888,99,100}
Client: sending message to {18888,150,250}
Client: sending message to {18888,200,399}
Client: sending message to {18888,0,399}
Client: sending termination message to {18888,0,399}
****** TIPC client multicast demo finished ******

Both servers (test2 and test3) receive the message and return output which looks like this

Server: port {18888,200,299} received: message to {18888,150,250}
Server: port {18888,100,199} received: message to {18888,99,100}
Server: port {18888,100,199} received: message to {18888,150,250}
Server: port {18888,0,99} received: message to {18888,99,100}
Server: port {18888,300,399} received: message to {18888,200,399}
Server: port {18888,300,399} received: message to {18888,0,399}
Server: port {18888,300,399} terminated
Server: port {18888,200,299} received: message to {18888,200,399}
Server: port {18888,200,299} received: message to {18888,0,399}
Server: port {18888,200,299} terminated
Server: port {18888,100,199} received: message to {18888,0,399}
Server: port {18888,100,199} terminated
Server: port {18888,0,99} received: message to {18888,0,399}
Server: port {18888,0,99} terminated


Success, a customised n2n VPN set up can be used to effectively operate broadcast and multicast over the AWS EC2 network.

While the average throughput is less than the standard ethernet interface with no VPN for both file transfer and ZMQ, n2n is still comparable with OpenVPN, considered to be a very fast point to point VPN server, but with the added benefit of running a VPN cluster.

Depending on the packet size, we can send between 3000 and 35000 messages per second over ZMQ, and over 80Mbit/second throughput on a small instance.

If more throughput is required, larger instances can be used.

To conclude this article, depending on your exact requirements, using a customised n2n unlocks broadcast and multicast over the EC2 network. If you require more messages per second than you can achieve with EC2, then we recommend Rackspace performance cloud instances which are more expensive but officially support broadcast and multicast.

For our own requirements, the messages per second achieved with n2n provides plenty of excess capacity.

If you have any feedback please comment below.


Cloud Networking EC2 VPC

Published by: Stuart Buckell

Published on: 19.01.2016

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