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31 Days of our Favorite Things: Yes, there is an “I” in Team. The NIC Team in Windows Server 2012 (Part 7 of 31)

31 Days of our Favorite Things: Yes, there is an “I” in Team. The NIC Team in Windows Server 2012 (Part 7 of 31)

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NIC TeamingHappy Sunday!  It’s my turn again to provide today’s article in our series of “31 Days of our Favorite Things”.  And today I am pleased to introduce to you the topic of NIC Teaming.

“’Introduce’?  But, Kevin… I’ve been doing NIC Teaming for years now.”

Sure.  But not as a built-in feature of Windows Server.  Long requested and desired, Microsoft has finally made NIC Teaming a native, built-in feature of the Server in Windows Server 2012

To start things off, let me ask you a couple of questions: If you’re currently doing NIC teaming, you are probably doing it through some NIC vendor’s solution, right?

“Yes.”

And if you go to that vendor and say/ask, “I want to team your NICs with this other NIC from another vendor.  Can I?”, what do they say?

“They won’t let me.” Sad smile 

Right.  And that’s understandable.  Every vendor has their own proprietary solution and implementation, and they can’t (won’t, can’t support, etc).  Their solutions work great; but at the expense of real choice or flexibility.  So Microsoft has finally added NIC Teaming into Windows Server 2012 that:

  • Doesn’t care what the NIC vendor is,
  • Doesn’t’ care about the NIC’s network speed, and
  • Actually doesn’t care if it’s wired or wireless. 

Oh.. and it’s just included for no additional cost.  Smile

“Nice.  What are the benefits of having a NIC team?”

In general there are two benefits: Resiliency and Performance.

By resiliency, I mean that if any one of the network paths (or network cards) becomes disconnected or somehow fails, the remaining NICs in the team are in place to continue making sure that traffic is getting through.

And in terms of performance, your team is able to take advantage of the aggregate of all bandwidth available.  So in theory, your 4 x 1 GB NICs should be able to give you 4GB of bandwidth.

“Fantastic!  How does one set this up?”

It’s pretty easy from Server Manager.  Let’s say your local computer area looks like this:

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See the area I’ve circled?  There you can see the fact that this server has 4 NICs all currently getting their IP addresses through DHCP.  And you can also see right above those that NIC Teaming is currently disabled.

Click on the word “disabled”.  This brings up the NIC Teaming window.

image

Notice that under the TEAMS section, I don’t have any.  Above that section, click on Tasks…

image

And select New Team.  That will bring up the New Team Window.

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Notice that I’ve named my team (Go Vikings!), and selected all four of my NICs to become members of the team.  ALSO, I’ve expanded the Additional Properties area to show you that you have additional options available for configuration.

Click OK, and now you’ll see that I have a team.

image

When I close this window and refresh the Server Manager window, now you’ll see that I only have one NIC being used by the server.  But underneath we know that this is really a team of 4 physical NICs.

image

In fact, if you click on the NIC here, you’ll be taken to the Network Connections window, where you’ll see all of the physical as well as team NICs.

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The properties and the status of this team “NIC” look just like any other ordinary NIC.  Notice that the status shows that my 4 x 10 Gbps NICs are giving me 40 Gbps!  (Not really, in my case, because this is a virtual machine with virtual NICs all associated with the same Virtual Switch that connects them to my 1 Gbps laptop NIC.  But you get the idea.)

image

But interestingly, when I open the properties of any of the other four actual NICs that are members of the team, they have only one item selected: The Microsoft Network Adapter Multiplexor Protocol.

image

That’s obviously the protocol used to drive this NIC as a member of a NIC Team.

 

So in summary: NIC Teaming is included in Windows Server 2012 to provide aggregated network performance and resilient connectivity for physical servers running Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V Server, as well as virtual machines running virtually on those platforms.

For the complete rundown of NIC Teaming in Windows Server 2012, plus greater detail on configurations, traffic distribution algorithms (yawn), using NIC teams in virtual machines, and other errata, CLICK HERE for the TechNet NIC Teaming Overview.

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Have you had a chance to try this out yet?  Are you hoping to do NIC Teaming for the first time, or to perhaps augment what you’re already doing with your NIC vendors?  If you’d like to comment, or if you have any questions, be sure to post a comment below.

  • Very interesting.  Keep them coming.

    Thank you.

  • I am guessing that if one of my Network Adapters available to a team is actually vEthernet (Adapter1) and the other is a physical adapter, I probably need to disconnect Hyper-V from its physical adapter before teaming, then reconnect it to the Team?

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