Problems with 2Wire Gateway When Running VMWare

As I mentioned in my previous post, my service provider replaced my old DSL router (2Wire HomePortal 1000SW) with a new one (2Wire 1701HG Gateway). In theory these two DSL routers are almost identical (the new one has more Ethernet ports so more devices can be connected directly without using a switch), and I should not be expecting any problems…

Well, this was clearly not the case according to Murphy’s Law. When I booted up my server that is running under a VMWare (Version 5.5.1 build-19175) session, everything seemed to be working fine… until I fired up a browser on my host machine. I was immediately greeted with a message from the 2Wire router “Router behind Router…” To be fair, this message is actually correct. Since VMWare sets up bridged network on the host by default, to the outside would it would seem like there is a “router” on the host machine (vitual device VMware Network Adapter VMnet8 and VMnet1 behave like routers). The 2Wire router suggested that it needed to assign one machine with a “static” IP address to avoid the “Router behind Router” issue. Well, I did not have a choice as to which machine I wanted to assign a static IP to. But fortunately, when I clicked OK, the host machine was chosen to be static.

For a while, everything seemed to be working until I booted up my wife’s machine, which is also connected to the new 2Wire router (I only have two physical machines connected to the router, nothing fancy.). When I opened up a browser window, I received the same message as I did on my machine. I had to let the router decide which machine to assign a static IP to again! Well, this time the 2Wire router decided to assign my wife’s computer a static IP. After that everything seemed to work, including my computer and the virtual machines running on it.

I guess that that was just my illusion. After about five minutes, when I went back to check on my computers again, I was greeted with the same “Router behind Router” message on my machine, but this time I couldn’t assign it a static IP anymore because the router reported that it had detected that “another device” is using a static IP and it can’t (for some reason) forcibly taken away! And the same message appeared on my wife’s computer and the virtual server as well. So I was in a situation where there was no internet access from any of the machines… Out of curiosity, I checked my server from another internet connection. It seemed that my server was actually up and running because I could see my web pages, and also I could do a remote desktop back to my server! But I just could not see the “outside” world from my home. I had to hard reset the router to start all over again.

I spent the next few days, trying different configurations, including setting the 2Wire router to DMZ mode and hooking up my own router instead (note, this was my original setting since 2Wire HomePortal 1000SW only has one Ethernet port)… It failed to work also. A couple of other configurations (including changing the subnet IP range) also failed. It seems that 2Wire 1701HG Gateway is very stubborn. It insists on being the only device that assigns all the IPs.

After three day’s struggle, I finally came to the conclusion that there is no hope trying to use that router and VMWare virtual hosts at the same time, at least not using bridged network mode. The only way I could use a VMWare session is to set it to use NAT. Unfortunately I couldn’t use NAT for my web server since I need to assign my port 80 to route to the host and NAT makes my virtual host sharing the same IP as my host…

Well, for the time being I am stuck. In order to get my website running and everyone happy at the same time, I had to copy my website from the virtual server to my workstation, which is far from ideal. But that is the only setting that makes the router happy…

So now my website is “downgraded” (running on a workstation vs. running on a server). Well, probably I don’t have that big a traffic to see the real impact right now. But I lost my ftp server as the result as well.

Clearly, the design of 2Wire 1701HG is flawed. Unfortunately, not many home users do what I do at home. I will try to contact 2Wire to see if they can find a solution.

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