Cloud Platforms

Running strongSwan on a cloud platform is usually relatively painless because only the hardware is virtualized. The kernel and userspace is untouched.

General Warnings And Problems

Generally in a cloud environment, the underlying network checks the source IP address of the sent IP packets. You need to be able to deactivate this check in order to use strongSwan as a VPN gateway, either in a roadwarrior or a site-to-site scenario. Except if you masquerade the source address of all packets that are transmitted over the network. However, it is advisable to avoid NAT at any cost because it prevents you from addressing remote endpoints. This only applies to the outermost IP packet though as it does not affect the inner IP packet of any tunneling protocol.

As an alternative, the packets from and to the VPN gateway can be transported to the hosts on the local network using other means than directly on top of Ethernet, e.g by using IPsec in tunnel mode, GRE, IPinIP or other protocols.

Container Virtualization

Container-virtualized environments often do not offer a working IPsec stack to the software in the container. Therefore the kernel-libipsec interface might have to be used instead.

To use kernel-libipsec, tun devices have to be available. Keep in mind that using kernel-libipsec has drawbacks and is generally discouraged. Change to a hardware-virtualized virtual machine if possible.

OpenVZ uses container virtualization. On OpenVZ, support for IPsec seems to have been broken at some point. Virtuozzo can also be a container. With Virtuozzo it depends on the VM type.

If the charon daemon complains about not being able to open an XFRM socket or the installation of SAs fails, then it’s very likely container-virtualized.

strongSwan in a Docker container works with kernel IPsec if the host operating system has a working IPsec stack and if the docker container, as well as strongSwan, have the necessary privileges to access it (CAP_NET_ADMIN). You do not have to enable host networking.

An incomplete list of container virtualization technologies:


On AWS the source check of a machine can be disabled in the EC2 management menu. Disabling it is required if the host running strongSwan is supposed to make the whole Internet available to the hosts in the VPC. Otherwise add the routes to the remote network in the VPC’s route settings.

This is not required if you protect the traffic between the other hosts and the central gateway in the VPC (not the AWS-provided Internet Gateway) using IPsec in tunnel mode.

Generally the source check only has to be disabled if the routing table of the VPC disagrees with the direction the traffic goes into and comes from (the return path check fails). That is the same mechanism as the rp_filter on Linux.


Each virtual NIC attached to a VM has an option to enable IP forwarding. If that option is not enabled, then Azure does a src/dst check.

Google Cloud Engine

No specialties about the Google Cloud Engine (GCE) are known at this point.

DigitalOcean Droplets

On DigitalOcean the source check cannot be disabled.