Skip to main content

Linux networking: To route or to ip route?     

Which route will you choose? Old school or new-fangled.
route or ip route

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

Do you know what's less useful than a screen door on a submarine? A network with no routes. Routing has existed in tandem with networks since the genesis of time, or at least since the 1960's when the concept was invented. Routing as we know it today didn't exist until 1981 when a team of researchers developed the first multiprotocol router. Even though the technology is relatively new, it's highly integrated into our daily lives.

During my time as a support engineer, I found myself troubleshooting network connectivity issues more often than I care to remember. Many times, I would find myself having to engage a senior tech for help because I didn't fully understand the routing from device to device. If only there had been a place where I could get the basics of routing and the commands needed to make changes. Well, you're in luck! I'm going to provide that information here.

There are many ways to do things in Linux, and routing is no different. I want to examine two different commands for displaying and manipulating routing tables: the route command and the ip route command. We are going to look at both commands in some very common use cases to see what each utility can offer.

Displaying existing routes

First things first. You never want to make a change to a route until you verify the existing conditions. To do this, simply run the following:

Display existing routes with route:

[tcarrigan@rhel ~]$ route
Kernel IP routing table
Destination     Gateway         Genmask         Flags Metric Ref    Use Iface
default         _gateway         UG    100    0        0 enp0s3   U     100    0        0 enp0s3   U     0      0        0 virbr0

Display existing routes with ip:

[tcarrigan@rhel ~]$ ip route  show
default via dev enp0s3 proto dhcp metric 100 dev enp0s3 proto kernel scope link src metric 100 dev virbr0 proto kernel scope link src linkdown 

For a basic listing, I prefer the old school route command, but your mileage may vary.

Adding new routes

At times, you need to add new routes between devices. To do this, use the examples below.

Using route:

[root@rhel ~]# route add -net gw enp0s3

Here the syntax is: route add -net <network_address> gw <gatewayaddr> <interfacename>

Using ip:

[root@rhel ~]# ip route add via dev enp0s3

The syntax for this command is: ip route add <network you want to connect to> via <ip used to reach the network> dev <interface name>

Removing routes

You can remove routes in a similar fashion.

Using route:

[root@rhel ~]# route del -net gw enp0s3

The syntax is the same as the add command, except we are using del instead of add.

Using ip:

[root@rhel ~]# sudo ip route del via dev enp0s3

Again, we are only altering the syntax slightly from the add command.

Adding a new default gateway

Another task you may need to accomplish is configuring traffic to flow to a gateway. To accomplish this, use the following commands.

Adding a new gateway with route:

[root@rhel ~]# route add default gw

Adding a new gateway with ip:

[root@rhel ~]# ip route add default via

To verify that the new gateway is set, use the standard route command or ip route show.

What do you think?

Well, we took a look at some of the most basic functions of these commands. What are your initial impressions? If I am being honest, I prefer the older route command in every instance here. The syntax is easier to understand and remember, and the commands are usually shorter. Hopefully, I won't have to use either of these again anytime soon. However, if I do, I know which one I'll work with!

[ Getting started with networking? Check out the Linux networking cheat sheet. ]

Topics:   Networking  
Author’s photo

Tyler Carrigan

Tyler is the Sr. Community Manager at Enable Sysadmin, a submarine veteran, and an all-round tech enthusiast! He was first introduced to Red Hat in 2012 by way of a Red Hat Enterprise Linux-based combat system inside the USS Georgia Missile Control Center. More about me

Try Red Hat Enterprise Linux

Download it at no charge from the Red Hat Developer program.