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Understanding NIC Teaming and Load Balancing Policies in virtual switch

NIC Teaming

In its simplest terms NIC teaming means that we are taking multiple physical NICs on a given ESXi host and combining them into a single logical link that provides bandwidth aggregation and redundancy to a vSwitch. NIC teaming can be used to distribute load among the available uplinks of the team.  A NIC teaming configuration can look like as shown in below screenshot:
9780133511086 1.16.2014
There are several Load Balancing policies available for the virtual switch. These are discussed as below:
1: Route Based on Originating virtual Port-ID: This is the default load balancing policy for a vSS or vDS. This policy doesn’t require any special configuration to be done at virtual switch level or physical switch level.
In this policy when a NIC is added to a VM or a new VM is provisioned with a NIC and comes online, VMkernel assigns a Port-ID to the virtual NIC of the VM. The outgoing traffic from the VM NIC will be routed through which uplink (physical adapter) of the team is determined by vSwitch using a modulo function where Port-ID of the VM NIC (virtual adapter of VM) is divided by total number of uplinks present in the team and the remainder obtained determines which uplink will be used to route the traffic of that VM NIC.
At a given time a VM NIC can use only one uplink to send out its traffic. In case of failure of the uplink the traffic of that VM NIC is rerouted (failed over) among one of the available uplink of the team. The selected uplink for a VM NIC can be changed if a VM changes its power state or is migrated using vMotion.
For better understanding consider the below example:
We have a virtual switch with a port group named Production. We have 4 virtual machines connected to this port group and 3 physical NICS connected to the virtual switch.
This policy works kind of like round robin. VM-A will use vmnic1, VM-B will use vmnic-2, VM-C will use vmnic-3 and VM-D will use vmnic1. The virtual machines traffic are just distributed over the available physical NIC’s.
2: Route Based on Source MAC hash: This policy is similar to Route based on originating Port ID but with the difference that vSwitch uses the MAC address of the VM NIC to determine the uplink which will be responsible for taking outgoing traffic of that VM NIC.
In this policy also, a VM NIC can be assigned only one uplink to send traffic out at a given time but failover is supported in case that uplinks fails. This policy is available in both vSS and vDS.
3: Route Based on IP Hash: This is the only load balancing policy in which a VM NIC can send out traffic through more than one uplink at a given time. This policy requires a special configuration i.e. Ether-Channel or Port-Channel to be configured on physical switch.
There is one caveat in this policy. A VM NIC can utilize more than one uplink to send outgoing traffic when it is communicating with more than one destination (IP). If a VM is doing one to one communication i.e. communicating with only one destination IP, traffic will not be shared among the uplinks and only one of the uplink will be used to send the traffic out.
4: Route Based on Physical NIC Load: This load balancing policy is only available with vDS and by far is the most intelligent policy to distribute load among the uplinks in a teamed environment.
The assignment of uplinks to VM NIC’s is based on the originating Port-ID itself but before assigning any uplink vDS looks at the load on the physical adapters. The adapter which is least loaded will be assigned to the VM NIC for sending out traffic. If an adapter which was previously less utilized but suddenly becomes busy due to a heavy network activity on a VM NIC, then that VM NIC will be moved to a different physical adapter so as to keep balance among all uplinks as best as possible.
This load balancing policy use an algorithm to perform a regular inspection of load on the Physical NIC’s every 30 seconds. When the utilization of Particular physical uplink exceeds 75% over 30 seconds, the hypervisor will move VM’s traffic to another uplink adapter. This load balancing doesn’t require any additional configuration at the physical switch level.
load based on Physical NIC load-1
Graphic Thanks to VMwareArena.Com
5: use explicit failover order: This policy really doesn’t do any sort of load balancing. Instead, the first Active NIC on the list is used to route the outgoing traffic for all VM’s. If that one fails, the next Active NIC on the list is used, and so on, until you reach the Standby NICs.
Note: With Explicit Failover option if you have a vSwitch with many uplinks, only one of the uplink will be actively used at any given time.
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