How vSphere sees VLANs

-     Virtual Switch (vSwitch): Manages virtual machine and networking at the host level. There is NEVER a direct connection between two vSwitches, and the Spanning Tree is OFF. So EAST-WEST Traffic is NOT ALLOWED between the vSwitches, and the only way out of the vSwitch is via UPLINKs (physical interconnections with the Physical Switch, NIC=VMNIC) that are Teamed to work as one link. There is a variety of ways of teaming them (Active-Standby, LACP etc.).

Since Spanning-Tree is not running at all, be sure to do BPDUGUARD and PORTFAST TRUNK on the physical ports of the Switch.

The existence of VLANs is inevitable in any kind of L2 environment, but in the case of vSphere, there are 3 methods to configure them:
  •         EST (External Tag Switching), which is a default method, and all Port Groups on a vSwitch are in VLAN 0. The Physical Switch facing the host needs to be set to an Access Mode (any VLAN will work, depends on your network), because the traffic is coming untagged.
  •         VST (Virtual Switch Tagging), which means that you basically create a new port group and put it into the VLAN you want, and the VLAN is automatically created on the vSwitch. The Physical Switch needs to have the ports defined as Trunk.
  •         VGT (Virtual Guest Tagging), when you want to TRUNK to the actual VMs (VM receives the packets with dot1q Trunk with various VLANs). To do this, you need to set the VLAN to be All (4095).

vSphere Networking for CCIEs

Before you even consider getting into the NSX, be sure you understand deeply the vSphere, vCenter and ESXi concepts, including the vSphere Networking (vSwitch and vDS). If this is not the case, I highly recommend you start with a vSphere-networking course.

There are two types of Hypervisors, and in case of VMware they are, as show on the diagram above.

-        Type 1: ESXi over the Bare Metal (Physical Server)
-        Type 2: VM Workstation installed on the Native OS

The vCenter Server system is a centralised platform for management features. It manages each of the ESXi hosts. Have in mind that in the vCenter your ESXi servers will be managed as Hosts, so from it´s point of view each ESXi is a single Host.

The vCenter Server system includes the following features:
  •         VMware vSphere® vMotion® enables you to migrate running virtual machines from one ESXi host to another without disrupting the virtual machine.
  •         VMware vSphere® Distributed Resource Scheduler" (DRS) provides load balancing for your virtual machines across the ESXi hosts. DRS leverages vSphere vMotion to balance these workloads.
  •         If configured, VMware vSphere® Distributed Power Management" (DPM) can be used to power off unused ESXi hosts in your environment. DPM can also power on the unused EXI hosts at the correct time.
  •         VMware vSphere® Storage vMotion® allows you to migrate a running virtual machine's hard disks from one storage device to another device. VSphere vMotion allows you to migrate a running virtual machine from one ESXi host to another, even during normal business hours, and it can operate without the shared storage (you can migrate a running machine even if the ESXi hosts don’t have the shared storage).
  •         VMware vSphere® Storage DRSTM automates load balancing from a storage perspective.
  •         VMware vSphere® Data Protection enables you to backup your virtual machines.
  •         VMware vSphere® High Availability to restart your virtual machines on another host if you have a hardware problem.

Storage: vSphere supports Fibre Channel, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), iSCSI, and NFS for Shared storage. vSphere also supports local storage. vSphere HA feature does require the shared storage between the machines, and this is important for us, because this is the only available HA mechanism for NSX Manager for now (as you will later see, there is a limitation that only one NSX Manager can be implemented per vCenter).

Virtual networking is similar to physical networking. Each virtual machine and ESXi host on the network has an address and a virtual network card. These virtual network cards are connected to virtual Ethernet switches. Virtual switches attach your virtual machines to the physical network.

Virtual switches are of the following types:
  •         Standard switch architecture – Virtual Switch (vSwitch): Manages virtual machine and networking at the host level. There is NEVER a direct connection between two vSwitches, and the Spanning Tree is OFF. So EAST-WEST Traffic is NOT ALLOWED between the vSwitches, and the only way out of the vSwitch is via UPLINKs (physical interconnections with the Physical Switch, NIC=VMNIC) that are Teamed to work as one link. There is a variety of ways of teaming them (Active-Standby, LACP etc.).
  •        VMware vSphere® Distributed Switch (vDS) architecture: Manages virtual machine and networking at the Data Center level. Have in mind that one vDS only covers one Data Center span. This is not on a physical level, but on a vSphere Datacenter level.

The aim of all these Virtualization Techniques is to reach the stadium of a Software Defined Data Center (SDDC = SDN + SDS [storage] + SDC), where the Service Providers are decoupled from physical infrastructure, allowing them to use any x86, any storage, and any IP networking hardware, as is shown on the example below.

A software-defined data center is decoupled from the underlying hardware, and takes advantage of underlying network, server, and storage hardware. This is where VMware NSX enters the game, between other things also because it can do layer 2, SSL, and IPsec VPNs, and this provides business continuance and disaster recovery capabilities, which are not otherwise available.

NSX uses the vSphere Distributed Switches (VDS) in vSphere (requires Enterprise Plus licence), which is considered a Data Plane and it needs to be Setup in order to later configure the Logical Switch as a VXLAN platform, even though you can run some services on the standard vSwitch. Distributed switches must be in the same vCenter Server system as NSX Manager so that NSX Manager can use the distributed switch.

 VDS is actually a second vSwitch included in vSphere, and it allows you to do things more globaly, not only on a level of a single host (ESXi) as a standard vSwitch.  The biggest advantage of VDS is that it can manage all vSwitches in a data center, not only the individual switches per host. Have in mind that the VM Port Groups are configured on the vDS and the configuration applies to all hosts, while the VMKernel port groups are still configured on the each individual host (ESXi in our case), just like in the Standard vSwitch.

VMkernel is the liaison between virtual machines (VMs) and the physical hardware that supports them. VMkernel ports are special constructs used by the vSphere host to communicate with the outside world. The goal of a VMkernel port is to provide some sort of Layer 2 or Layer 3 services to the vSphere host. Although a VM can talk to a VMkernel port, they do not consume them directly.
dvUplink is a concept of the Physical Links from each host represented in the VDS. This way regardless of how the vmnic Uplinks are called on the host level (vmnic1, vmnic2 … vmnic10…), on the VDS Level they are simply shown as dvUplink1 and dvUplink2. This way we can simply define which one is Active and which one is Standby without having to configure each host separately.

TIP: Cisco Nexus 1000v is a VDS alternative, but for now NSX doesn’t integrate with the 1000v.

There are features that the standard vSwitch cannot provide, and the VDS can, such as:
  •         NIOC (Network IO Control), to tune the load distribution and the priorities. NIOC can be used to set limits and shares in order to set up the priorities, for example with NSX to implement QoS.
  •         Port Mirroring (SPAN and RSPAN).
  •         NetFlow (and there are some free NetFlow collectors, such as SolarWinds).
  •         Private VLANs (not really needed in NSX because of Micro Segmentation and DFW and DLR features).
  •         Ingress/Egress Traffic Shaping. The most common use case is vMotion, and it’s supported by NSX.

Network I/O control (NIOC) is the advanced feature in vSphere Distributed Switch that provides traffic management capability. You can use the Network I/O Controls features of the Virtual Distributed Switch to limit vMotion traffic causing a configuration error that prevents a successful vMotion between hosts. By default, Network I/O control has 8 predefined Network Resource Pool types:
  •         NFS Traffic
  •         Management Traffic
  •         vMotion Traffic
  •         Virtual SAN Traffic
  •         vSphere Replication (VR) Traffic
  •         iSCSI Traffic
  •         Virtual Machine Traffic
  •         Fault Tolerance (FT) Traffic

Assigning Limits and Shares to these various categories of traffic provides an easy way to assign priorities to network traffic. In addition, Network I/O Controls provides the flexibility to define your own Network Resource Pool types that will be explored later in the module.
VDS needs to cover all the clusters, and it’s what actually switches the frames. You need to configure the following VDS attributes:
  •         Teaming and Failover.
  •         Security Options.
  •         Monitoring.

I/O or Data Plane on the VDS is made out of hidden vSwiches on each vSphere host that is a part of dVSwitch. In order to troubleshoot it you can log into the ESXi via SSH. View all physical NIC's attached to the Host:

# esxcli network nic list

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