NIC Teaming (Network Teaming) means you are grouping two or more physical NICs and it will act as a single NIC. You may call it as a Virtual NIC. Minimum number of NICs which can be grouped (Teamed) is Two and the maximum number of NICs which you can group is Eight.
HP Servers are equipped with Redundant Power Supply, Fan, Hard drive (RAID) etc. As we have redundant hardware components installed on same server, the server will be available to its users even if one of the above said components fails. In the similar manner, by doing NIC Teaming (Network Teaming), we can achieve Network Fault tolerance and Load balancing on your HP Proliant Server.
HP Proliant Network Adapter Teaming (NIC Teaming) allows Server administrator to configure Network Adapter, Port, Network cable and switch level redundancy and fault tolerance. Server NIC Teaming will also allows Receive Load balancing and Transmit Load balancing. Once you configure NIC teaming on a server, the server connectivity will not be affected when Network adapter fails, Network Cable disconnects or Switch failure happens.
To create NIC Teaming in Windows 2008/2003 Operating System, we need to use the HP Network Configuration Utility. This utility is available for download at Driver & Download page of your HP Server (HP.com). Please install the latest version of Network card drivers before you install the HP Network Configuration Utility. In Linux, Teaming (NIC Bonding) function is already available and there is no HP tools which you need to use to configure it. This article will focus only on Windows based NIC teaming.
HP Network Configuration Utility (HP NCU) is a very easy-to-use tool available for Windows Operating System. HP NCU allows you to configure different types of Network Team, here are the few:
1. Network Fault Tolerance Only (NFT)
2. Network Fault Tolerance Only with Preference Order
3. Transmit Load Balancing with Fault Tolerance (TLB)
4. Transmit Load Balancing with Fault Tolerance and Preference Order
5. Switch-assisted Load Balancing with Fault Tolerance (SLB)
6. 802.3ad Dynamic with Fault Tolerance
Network Fault Tolerance Only (NFT):
In NFT team, you can group two to eight NIC ports and it will act as one virtual network adapter. In NFT, only one NIC port will transmit and receive data and its called as primary NIC. Remaining adapters are non-primary and will not participate in receive and transmit of data. So if you group 8 NICs and create a NFT Team, then only 1 NIC will transmit and receive data, remaining 7 NICs will be in standby mode. If the primary NIC fails, then next available NIC will be treated as Primary, and will continue the transmit and receive of data. NFT supports switch level redundancy by allowing the teamed ports to be connected to more than one switch in the same LAN
Network Fault Tolerance Only with Preference Order:
This mode is identical to NFT, however here you can select which NIC is Primary NIC. You can configure NIC Priority in HP Network Configuration Utility. This team type allows System Administrator to prioritize the order in which teamed ports should failover if any Network failure happens. This team supports switch level redundancy.
Transmit Load Balancing with Fault Tolerance (TLB):
TLB supports load balancing (transmit only). The primary NIC is responsible for receiving all traffic destined for the server, however remaining adapters will participate in transmission of data. Please note that Primary NIC will do both transmit and receive while rest of the NIC will perform only transmission of data. In simpler words, when TLB is configured, all NICs will transmit the data but only the primary NIC will do both transmit and receive operation. So if you group 8 NICs and create a TLB Team, then only 1 NIC will transmit and receive data, remaining 7 NICs will perform transmission of data. TLB supports switch level redundancy.
Transmit Load Balancing with Fault Tolerance and Preference Order:
This model is identical to TLB, however you can select which one is the Primary NIC. This option will help System Administrator to design network in such a way that one of the teamed NIC port is more preferred than other NIC port in the same team. This model also supports switch level redundancy.
Switch-assisted Load Balancing with Fault Tolerance (SLB):
SLB allows full transmit and receive load balancing. In this team, all the NICs will transmit and receive data hence you have both transmit and receive load balancing. So if you group 8 NICs and create a SLB Team, all the 8 NICs will transmit and receive data. However, SLB does not support Switch level redundancy as we have to connect all the teamed NIC ports to the same switch. Please note that SLB is not supported on all switches as it requires Ether Channel, MultiLink Trunking etc.
802.3ad Dynamic with Fault Tolerance
This team is identical to SLB except that the switch must support IEEE 802.3ad Link Aggregation Protocol (LACP). The main advantage of 802.3ad is that you do not have to manually configure your switch. 802.3ad does not support Switch level redundancy but allows full transmit and receive load balancing.
How to team NICs on HP Proliant Server:
To configure NIC teaming on your Windows based HP Proliant Server, you need to download HP Network Configuration Utility (HP NCU). This utility is available for download at HP.com. Once you download and install NCU, please open it. To know how to open NCU on your HP Server, please check my guide provided below.
If you are using Windows 2012 Server Operating System on your HP Server, then you could not use HP Network Configuration Utility. We need to use the inbuilt network team software of Windows here. Please check the below provided article about Windows 2012 Network team to learn more.
Let us continue with our Windows 2008/2003 based HP NCU here. Once you open NCU, you will find all the installed network cards are listed in it. As you can find from below provided screenshot, we have 4 NICs installed. Here, we will team first two NICs in NFT mode.
1. The HP Network Configuration Utility Properties window will look like the one provided below.
2. Select 2 NICs by clicking on it and then click Team button.
3. HP Network Team #1 will be created as shown below.
4. Select HP Network Team #1 and click on Properties button to change team properties.
5. The Team Properties Window will open now.
6. Here you can select the type of NIC team you want to implement (See below screenshot).
7. Here, I will select NFT from the Team Type Selection drop down list.
8. Click OK once you selected the desired Team type.
9. Now you will be at below provided screen now. Click OK to close HP NCU.
10. You will receive confirmation window prompting you to save changes, Click Yes.
11. HP NCU will configure NIC teaming now, the screen may look like the one provided below.
12. This may take some time, once Teaming is done, below provided window will be shown.
13. Open HP NCU, you could find that HP Network Team is in Green color. Congrats!
How to set Static IP address for Teamed Network Adapters:
As you have created NIC Teaming on your server, you may go ahead and assign a static IP to it Or you can leave the settings in default and your DHCP server will assign an IP automatically. You need to perform below provided steps only if you are setting any static IP for your NIC team.
To assign an IP, you need to open control panel window and open Network connection window. You will find a new network card with name “HP Network Team #1”. When we create a Network Team, this Virtual NIC will be created. To assign an IP for the Teamed NICs, we have to assign IP address for this Virtual NIC “HP Network Team #1”.
14. To set an IP address for HP Network Team #1, please open Network Connection window from Control Panel.
14. Right-click on Local Area Connection 5 and click on Properties.
15. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IP), and then click on Properties
16. You may set a Static IP for the Teamed NICs now.
Whenever you update NIC drivers on your HP Servers, ensure that you dissolve the existing NIC teaming before you do it. You will find Dissolve button in HP NCU window. This is highly recommended by HP.
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