vSphere Networking: NIC Teaming without static trunks

In our vSphere environment, we have a standard vSwitch made up of two physical NICs setup with NIC Teaming.

However, on the physical switch (HP ProCurve), the two switch ports (connected to the above mentioned NICs) are not configured to be in a TRUNK or LACP.

How is this affecting our environment? Everything seems to be running fine.

The below article says that to use NIC Teaming you need to setup static TRUNKs.

VMware KB
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pzozulkaAsked:
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Depends on the teaming policy. You do not have to have any configuration, and outbound traffic will leave the hosts, into the physical switches correctly.

BUT, to control inbound traffic you need to configure physical switches.

Network Traffic flows both ways, e.g. DUPLEX!

If you are using a teaming policy, traffic from the VMs will be routed through either network interface.

if you use esxtop at the console, you will be able to check which network interface which VM is using.

see this article

http://blog.scottlowe.org/2006/12/04/esx-server-nic-teaming-and-vlan-trunking/
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aa-denverCommented:
Have you tested to see if the VMware host and VMs can actually failover from both NICs to each other?   What happens if you set up a continuous ping to the HP switch IP address from a VM and unplug one of the Ethernet cables from the host?  Does the ping continue to connect?   Do pings still continue flowing when you test by disconnecting the other Ethernet cable  (make sure the first one you tested is plugged back in and the switch is talking to it.)

If that test works, I would test inbound pings from a physical server to one of the VMs using the same technique.  If VMware is only doing the bonding you might expect that pings will failover in one direction, but not in another.
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sjepsonCommented:
The link describes LACP trunking which is only a recent addition to ESX.

hancocka is correct in saying that the NIC teaming policies in ESXi prior to LACP support only affects traffic outbound from your ESX host and doesn't require any configuration on the connected physical switch.

However, you can set route based on IP hash as a NIC teaming option and Etherchannel(Cisco) on your connected switch to support link aggregation and redundancy in both directions. This is more of an aggregation than redundancy as it only works with a single physical switch although someone is bound to pitch in here saying that it works with stacked or intelligent core switches.

Steve
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pzozulkaAuthor Commented:
I was actually just going to mention this as I forgot to in the original post.

Although on ESXi side, the vSwitch is configured for NIC Teaming with the two NICs, the 1st NIC goes to the 1st core switch (ProCurve), and the 2nd NIC goes to the 2nd core switch (ProCurve).

The two switches are connected to each other via:

trunk A14,B14,C14,C16 Trk1 Trunk

So, sjepson, I think you're right in that we cannot achieve link aggregation with this type of setup. Right?
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
depends on the configuration, you have.

usually it's recommended to Stack, than Trunk.
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sjepsonCommented:
"we cannot achieve link aggregation with this type of setup. Right? "

Correct. It has to be either a single physical switch or a set of switches that act as single switch through stacking, Cisco VSS or Procurve IRF.

Steve
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pzozulkaAuthor Commented:
What if we don't have switches that stack. As mentioned earlier, our 2 core switches are trunked together.

If NIC1 is connected to switch1 and NIC2 is connected to switch2 wouldn't this cause a loop in the network?
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Yes that's a spanning tree loop
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pzozulkaAuthor Commented:
What if we have spanning-tree enabled on all switches? Does this setup become OK then?
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Have you tested it?

Does it work?

Eg pull power out of switch !
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
One switch
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pzozulkaAuthor Commented:
Yep, tested powering off an entire switch, and it works fine. We do see about 4 ping replies time out, but then everything is back to normal running on a single core switch.

Having said that, with spanning tree enabled on all switches, does this NIC Team setup become OK?
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pzozulkaAuthor Commented:
After doing a ton of research, it is absolutely fine to have a NIC team on a vSwitch policy having one of the NICs connected to Switch one and having the other NIC connected to switch two. In the event one of the switches fails or needs to go down for maintenance, the network traffic keeps flowing uninterrupted.

WIth this NIC team strategy, you're not going to get link aggregation in terms of bandwidth improvement, but more than likely (unless its a huge network), you probably not going to get much of a bandwidth improvement with link aggregation to begin with. We have about 40 VMs, and our network monitoring software is telling us that we're only using 10% of our bandwidth on average on our 1 Gbps network.

Lastly, even with our setup, we are still doing load balancing both ways -- traffic leaving the ESXi hosts, and traffic going back. Why? Our NIC Team policy on the ESXi hosts is set to "Route based on the originating virtual switch port ID". "When you use this setting, traffic from a given virtual Ethernet adapter is consistently sent to the same physical adapter unless there is a failover to another adapter in the NIC team. Replies are received on the same physical adapter as the physical switch learns the port association. This setting provides an even distribution of traffic if the number of virtual Ethernet adapters is greater than the number of physical adapters." -- VMware Virtual Networking Concepts (page 8). The reason we are getting load balancing using this NIC Team policy is because some of the VMs will choose to consistently use one of the NICs in the team, while other VMs are consistently using the other NIC.

Lastly there is a big difference between load balancing and load sharing. The previous paragraph is referring to NIC team policy for your production VM network traffic. It's a bit different for vSwitch NIC team settings for your IP Storage connectivity (which VMware recommends to separate away from your VM network traffic). The difference is as follows: Even if you setup full on link aggregation -- even if you set route based on IP hash as a NIC teaming option and Etherchannel(Cisco) on your connected switch to support link aggregation and redundancy in both directions -- "There is only one active pipe for the connection between the ESX server and a single storage target. This means that although there may be alternate connections available for failover, the bandwidth for a signle datastore and the underlying storage is limited to what a single connection can provide." -- VMware NFS Best Practices (page 7).
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sjepsonCommented:
Top work well done.

Steve
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