The Common Address Redundancy Protocol or CARP is a computer networking protocol which allows multiple hosts on the same local area network to share a set of IP addresses. Its primary purpose is to provide failover redundancy, especially when used with firewalls and routers.
In some configurations, CARP can also provide load balancing functionality. CARP provides functionality similar to VRRP and to Cisco Systems’ HSRP. It is implemented in several BSD-based operating systems and has been ported to Linux (ucarp).
If there is a single computer running a packet filter, and it goes down, the networks on either side of the packet filter can no longer communicate with each other, or they communicate without any packet filtering.
If, however, there are two computers running a packet filter, running CARP, then if one fails, the other will take over, and computers on either side of the packet filter will not be aware of the failure, so operation will continue as normal. In order to make sure the new master operates the same as the old one, the packet filter used must support synchronization of state between the two computers.
Principle of Redundancy
A group of hosts using CARP is called a “group of redundancy”. The group of redundancy allocates itself an IP address which is shared or divided among the members of the group. Within this group, a host is designated as “Master”. The other members are called “slaves”.
The main host is that which “takes” the IP address. It answers any traffic or ARP request brought to the attention of this address. Each host can belong to several groups of redundancy. Each host must have a second unique IP address.
A common use of CARP is the creation of a group of redundant firewalls. The virtual IP address allotted to the group of redundancy is indicated as the address of the default router on the computers behind this group of firewalls.
If the main firewall breaks down or is disconnected from the network, the virtual IP address will be taken by one of the firewall slaves and the service availability will not be interrupted.