Q

SMB protocol prerequisites in Windows Server 2012 R2

Basic SMB doesn't require much more than a compatible OS. Advanced features in SMB 3.0 like Multichannel or Direct have a few more requirements.

What are the minimum hardware requirements for SMB 3.0? What's the difference between SMB Multichannel and SMB Direct?

At a basic level, the server message block (SMB) protocol doesn't require anything more than a compatible operating system such as Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012 and later. But advanced SMB features, such as failover, do have certain requirements. An organization must configure a minimum of two server nodes in a failover cluster; file shares must run on cluster shared volumes (CSVs). Two other capabilities -- SMB 3.0 Multichannel and SMB 3.0 Direct -- also have specific hardware requirements.

SMB Multichannel allows a client and server to communicate by aggregating bandwidth across multiple network paths. The idea is to use every available NIC port to move data between points on the network while still offering resilience against network problems. Communication will still occur if an available network pathway fails (e.g., a switch port fails). In addition to running an SMB 3.0-compatible version of Windows on both ends of the network, Multichannel operation demands additional NIC ports, switches and network infrastructure to accommodate resilient network communications.

SMB Direct allows the use of network adapters with remote direct memory access (RDMA) features. RDMA moves data directly from the memory of one system into the memory of the destination system (made to appear as a storage target). This occurs at high network speeds and low latency with negligible processor overhead, resulting in efficient data exchanges across the network. As with SMB Multichannel, SMB Direct needs two systems with Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012, as well as RDMA-capable network adapters, such as RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE).

SMB has features designed to improve performance and security; a new suite of PowerShell cmdlets are available to help script and automate file share management across the enterprise. When adopting advanced features that require hardware support (such as SMB Direct), perform careful proof-of-principle testing, validation and benchmarking before rolling it out to production.

This was first published in June 2014

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