How can I utilize both NICs on our FileServer?

Posted on 2009-02-18
Last Modified: 2013-12-02
Hello everyone.  We have a fileserver that has been serving us rather well for the past couple years but speed is becoming an issue.  The more and more servers we setup the more work we create for our fileserver from client files to Server backups that are stored here.  All in all, everything has been going fine but lately things are starting to slow down and I suspect its speed issue.  How can I utilize both NICS on my server to speed things up a bit?  Is this called NLB?

We have a gigabit managed switch and two Intel PRO Gigabit NICs in the server so I'm sure something can be done.  Any help would be appreciated.
Question by:chrisjmccrum
    LVL 18

    Assisted Solution

    You are looking to do "Teaming". This will allow you to take your two physical interfaces and treat them as a single logical one. This can be done for fault tolerance or performance though I have never seen any drastic performance gains from it. I usually just set it up so that if a single NIC fails we are in the clear...
    LVL 18

    Assisted Solution

    Also there should be a driver/utility you have installed (or may need to install if you haven't already) that will allow you to set it up. If you do not have them go to the Intel website and search for the utility for your exact NIC model.
    LVL 32

    Accepted Solution

    You can team those NICs using link aggregations, so long as the switch support LAG (link aggregation group) configuration.

    1. Configure the two NICs into an team using link aggregation.  Test on your existing switch configuration, only connecting one NIC at a time.  Each NIC should work fine by itself.

    2. Configure two ports on the switch to be a LAG.

    3. Plug both NICs into the LAG ports on the switch.

    Test upload a large file to the server (like an ISO disk image).  Record the time.  Delete the file from the server.

    Start another large upload from another workstation.  Immediately repeat your first upload.  Record the time.

    Was it relatively the same, slower, faster?  Slow CPU and disk access would not reveal much if you have all gigabit NICs.  If your server is nominally "new" and has a fast RAID, you should see little decrease in speed of your upload.
    LVL 23

    Assisted Solution

    Since you have equipped it with a gigabit NIC, my first suggestion would be to start monitoring usage of the NIC, and disk I/O, and system CPU time (both process and kernel cpu usage), especially at times when it seems to be slow.

    It could just as easily be a server load problem (high CPU usage, high disk usage), as a bottleneck at the server's NIC.

    This is assuming you would have noticed a network bottlneck that was effecting throughput to other servers on the same switch.

    There are situations where teaming is very helpful with gigabit NICs, mainly for redundancy on critical servers,  it's not that much a speed boost, although total possible throughput increases,  teaming has its limitations.

    You will generally allow two connections with different remote IPs to each have the full gigabit available,  but the speed of an individual connection, is not increased by the other teamed NIC   (other than the reduced number of other connections contending for an interface).

    On a Windows 2003 server, you may find yourself starved for CPU, long before you get close to 2 gigabits.

    That is, unless your CPU is 3GHz or better,  or you have dual procs/dual cores.

    You can think of  approximately 2GHz or so  of those cycles as being completely lost  to service the interrupts required to achieve 2 Gigabits, at times of peak network load on your server, depending on your traffic mix  (small packets or big packets).


    Author Comment

    In regards to the CPU Usage being the bottleneck, I have looked into it in the past and it has only reached 60% tops but usually stays around 40%.  We have a total of 8 cores sitting inside the monstrosity which is why I assumed it may be the NICs that were the issue.

    I have successfully setup the TEAM and can't believe how easy it was.  Now before I get my hopes up...  Is there any type of software tool that I can use to monitor each NIC or better yet the new Virtual Team Adaptor to see speed differences?

    Also I'm not too savvy with the advanced NIC settings and was scrolling through the advanced options such as Jumbo Frames, Adaptive Inter-Frame Spacing, etc and was wondering if I could benefit from any of this extra stuff of just be happy that now I have a Teamed Adaptor?
    LVL 32

    Expert Comment

    Probably best to start a new question, or multiple questions.

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