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Port-channel Cisco vs. VMware ESX

I have had different discussions with different customers about the load-balancing algorithms between a Cisco switch, configured with a port-channel and a VMware ESX server using multiple NICs. Our VMware consultants always choose Route based on IP hashes as load-balancing algorithm. This means that load-balancing happens on layer 3 of the OSI model (source-destination-IP).

In my opinion, the switch should be configured the same way. Depending on the model switch, you can have different default load-balancing algoritmhs. For example, the Cisco Catalyst 3750 uses src-mac load-balancing and the Cisco Catalyst 6500 use src-dst-ip load-balancing. You can check the configured load-balancing algorithm with the following command:

show etherchannel load-balancing

If you would like you change the load-balancing algorithm you can use the global configuration command:

port-channel load-balancing <option>

Be aware that this is a global configuration command, so it affects all the configured port-channels on the switch.

To check the load-balancing between the different NICs, you should have a tool to look at real-time bandwidth statistics. I normally use the tool SNMP Traffic Grapher to monitor the different switch ports. On the ESX console you can check the load-balancing with the commands:

  1. esxtop [enter]
  2. s2 (schedule interval of 2 seconds) [enter]
  3. n [network]

The load should be spread fairly even across the different switch ports en vmnics.

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René Jorissen

Co-owner and Solution Specialist at 4IP Solutions
René Jorissen works as Solution Specialist for 4IP in the Netherlands. Network Infrastructures are the primary focus. René works with equipment of multiple vendors, like Cisco, Aruba Networks, FortiNet, HP Networking, Juniper Networks, RSA SecurID, AeroHive, Microsoft and many more. René is Aruba Mobility First Expert (AMFX #26), Aruba Certified Mobility Expert (ACMX #438), Aruba Certified ClearPass Expert (ACCX #725), Aruba Certified Design Expert (ACDX #760), CCNP R&S, FCNSP and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEF) certified. You can follow René on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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