Blue Gears - 6 Physical NICs with VMware ESX

Virtualization running on hosts with only 2 on-board pNICs and 4 pNIC in a slot have less security, redundancy, and performance challenges than other topologies. Administrators are forced to make only one major choice on which security zones to combine upon a pair of pNICs. Yet, the combination of service console/management appliance with VMotion is an accepted practice for 6 pNICs when an IP storage network is involved. How to setup virtual networking when 6 pNICs are involved follows:

pNIC0 -> vSwitch0 -> Portgroup0 (service console)
pNIC1 -> vSwitch0 -> Portgroup1 (VMotion)
pNIC2 -> vSwitch1 -> Portgroup2 (Storage Network)
pNIC3 -> vSwitch1 -> Portgroup2 (Storage Network)
pNIC4 -> vSwitch2 -> Portgroup3 (VM Network)
pNIC5 -> vSwitch2 -> Portgroup3 (VM Network)

With 6 pNICs you can setup three redundant vSwitches each for different purposes one for the service console/management appliance and VMotion. Another just for the Storage Network to grant higher levels of redundancy. While the third vSwitch is solely for the VM Network which includes redundancy.

The networks attached to vSwitch0 work best with VLANs however subnets will also work. With 2 pNICS on vSwitch0 each network gains its own pNIC and therefore better performance and security unless there is a failure case.

In this configuration pNIC0 is the failover pNIC for Portgroup1 while pNIC1 is the failover pNIC for Portgroup0. For vSwitch1 and vSwitch2 there is no need for predefined failover modes, just the default which includes vSwitch Port ID based load balancing. In other words, load balancing is outbound only and based on the port to which the VM is connected.

This method will grant the most redundancy, security, and performance for a 6 pNIC configuration.
Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.