Hello and welcome to another helpful article on Windows Server. In this article, we’ll talk about NIC Teaming and how it has improved over time, especially with the newer versions of Windows Server 2016 and 2012 R2.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into the essence of NIC Teaming right away.
NIC Teaming overview
NIC Teaming is a very nice networking feature of Windows that allows us to use more than one adapter in pairs (in a group) for better speed and more redundancy. When enabling NIC Teaming, we need at least two adapters on the Windows Server machine, and that’s about it. Yes, only two physical adapters, no additional software, etc.
In the past (prior to Windows Server 2012 R2), to perform NIC Teaming, we would need two adapters from the same vendor and third-party software to make teaming possible and present the OS with only one “virtual” NIC.
Now, starting with Windows Server 2012 R2 and up, it is built-in and independent of hardware. This means you can use any network cards you want and collaboration will work like a charm.
Now let’s dive deep into NIC Teaming and see how it works!
When we merge adapters, we take two or more physical adapters, up to 32, that are connected to one or more switches and present them to the operating system as a single NIC.
So all the traffic from the OS will go through this one, let’s call it a virtual network adapter, and then it will load balance between all the physical network adapters assigned to that one virtual network adapter.
Now let’s set up NIC Teaming to see how it all works.
Create a team NIC in Windows Server
First, we go to Server Manager and click on the local server to open the control panel.
As we can see, NIC Teaming is disabled. Let’s click on the Disabled link and see what happens.
We are presented with the NIC Teaming dialog, in which we can create a new team using the two available network adapters: Ethernet0 and Ethernet1 2.
So, go to “Tasks” and click “New command”.
In the New Command dialog, we have several options to choose from:
Let’s go through each in turn and see what they do.
The group name is the name of the virtual network adapter that we will see in the network connections folder. It could be anything, I chose EthernetTeam.
Then we have to select team members. We can create multiple teams as it is not necessary to add all the NICs to one team.
Then we have Additional properties. Now I had to expand this list as it is hidden by default. This means that once you have selected your network adapters, you just need to click OK and you will be fine.
But in our case, we like to go into small details, so let’s see what each of the options does.
Team mode is the mode that the team will work on. We have several options: Static Teaming, Switch Independent, and LACP.
We have one that is switch independent and two that are switch dependent. LACP stands for Link Aggregation Control Protocol. Switch-independent options mean we don’t need to make any configuration changes on the switch side.
Using Switch Independent means outbound traffic will be balanced using the algorithm we have chosen, but since the switches are unaware of load balancing, inbound traffic will not be load balanced.
In a static configuration, we configure ports on the switch and connect the network cards to those specific ports. In this way, the switch is aware of the aggregation and all traffic will be load balanced.
LACP is much more dynamic. We are configuring a switch, not individual ports, which means we can move cables and we still end up with a load balancing scenario.
Now we also need to choose a load balancing algorithm.
We have three of them: hash address, Hyper-V port and dynamic. Now let’s see what each one does.
The Address Hash algorithm uses the attributes of network traffic, port, IP address, and MAC address to determine where traffic should go.
The Hyper-V port algorithm will bind the virtual machine to a specific network card in the command. This works well if you have a lot of virtual machines, as it is very likely that they will be properly distributed across the adapters.
Dynamic, which Microsoft recommends, uses specifications from both worlds, address hash and Hyper-V to load balance data.
After we are done with the above configuration, we click OK and wait for the team to connect to the network.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and keep returning to future articles on Windows Server. Enjoy!