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ESXi 4.1 how to utilize multiple NICs

Posted on 2011-03-11
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
I have a server that runs our VM's (current 3 vm's on the server) and the server has 6 LAN connections.  How can I utilize all 6 LAN connections or be sure that the server is utilizing them?  Thanks!

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Question by:cansib
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by:IanTh
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1. do you use ha or vmotion via iscsi a you can use say 2 nics for that as iscsi needs its own network

2. you can use the others in a team so your esx server has a quicker nic

3 you can load-balance the other 2 nics
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by:bgoering
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Yes you can, but as IanTh indicates we would need to know a bit more about your configuration and network before we could make any kind of reasonable recommendation as to the best way to use them.

For example - as already indicated if you use network based storage (iSCSI or NFS) it would be best to allocate two nics to that in an active / standby configuration. In a ha configuration it is highly recommended to provide fault tolerance for the service console and again you should use two nics for that.

If you are trunking VLANs to your ESXi server, some consideration needs to be given to setup on the physical switch in order to accomodate multiple nics.

For the simplest case of no ha, ip storage, vmotion, and only a single (non VLAN based network) you can simply assign all of the nics to vSwitch0. I would configure 4 active, two standby (it would be rare that bandwidth greater than 4 Gbit nics would be required), then configure load balancing based on IP hash for the active nics.

Good Luck
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by:cansib
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Thanks for the info.

Right now, the config is very simple.  We are just starting our exploration into the VM world, so we have purchased a Dell R710, we have no SAN solution at the moment, each LAN port will just be connected to their own port in a Cisco 3750G switch.

So, I would go into the ESXi console, assign all of the NICs to vSwitch0... then configure load balancing.  Is that also configured in the ESXi console?  Thanks!  Sorry to sound like a dummy, but this is just plain all new to me.

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It is all configured in the vSphere client that you run on a seperate machine to manage your ESX server. Not necessarily from the console per se (though it is possible to do such configs from the tech support mode on the console, it is much easier through the client)

Select your server in the client, configuration tab then networking. Select properties on vSwitch0, then you can add adapters on the Network Adapters tab. Once you have added your adapters go to the Ports tab, select vSwitch, then Edit. You wil get a new dialog with a NIC Teaming tab. From there you can move nics up and down to group under active, standby, or unused. Under the load balancing drop down I recommend changing to Route based on IP hash - that seems to provide good load balancing of traffic for most situations.

Good Luck
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by:cansib
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Dude!  You rock!  This is exactly what I was looking for!  Thank you!
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by:cansib
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All 3 NICs by default are set to 1000 Full.  Should they be set to Auto as all of my switch ports are set to Auto?
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by:bgoering
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Either way should work. I did have one case in the past where I had to force one nic to 1000 Full because Auto always seemed to negotiate to 100. The funny thing about that was the server was using 5 nics all going to the same Cisco 6509 blade and the other 4 worked with auto. This was on a temporary server I was building for a disaster recovery exercise so I didn't spend any time trying to find out why but suspect a bad cable somewhere.

When in doubt leave the default unless for some reason it doesn't work.
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by:IanTh
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auto while be fine is your switch gbe
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by:cansib
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Sorry for the delayed response.  I was out of town this week.  Yes, my switch is GBE.  Thanks for the help!
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by:cansib
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Ok, one last question if I could about that auto vs. 1000 Full.... what I was referring to was when you go into the vSwitch0 properties and to the Network Adapters tab.  You can either manually set them (which it defaulted to 1000 Full) or you can set that to auto.  So those are 1000 Full right now, but I went into each VM and their network adapters are set to Auto.... In a normal switched environment, you are supposed to match the NIC settings with the switch port settings, either manually set both or set both to auto... So, in a VM environment, do I match all 3 (the VM, the vSwitch0 adapters, and the actual switch ports on my cisco switch)?  It's a little confusing.  Thanks!
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by:bgoering
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They are seperate entities. Match the vmnic settings from your vSwitch to your physical Cisco swith. Generally with a Cisco switch supporting gigabit ports either auto or 1000 full works fine. I just leave mine at the default 1000 full and connect to a couple of switch types (6509 and 3750).

The nic on the vm never sees your vmnic or your physical switch, it only sees the vSwitch, dvSwitch (distributed virtual switch), or Cisco Nexus 1000v virtual Cisco switch, and so far as I know only the 1000v allows setting of the virtual port.

In short, leave the vm nic at auto and it will pretty much always link up at 1000 Full.
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by:cansib
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Thanks alot!  You were a huge help!
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