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NIC teaming in Windows Server 2012 R2

Instead of spending big bucks on Ethernet technologies or complicated configurations, Windows Server 2012 R2 shops can use NIC teaming to improve reliability.

Windows Server 2012 R2 supports a variety of high-performance network technologies that rely on advanced hardware features. One such technology -- NIC teaming -- can help improve reliability in a Windows Server 2012 R2 deployment.

Large enterprises with network-intensive workloads can adopt faster Ethernet standards, such as 10 GbE, 40 GbE or even 100 GbE. But small and medium-sized enterprises running Windows Server 2012 R2 are more concerned with network resiliency than with spending money on the latest and greatest. And often, greater bandwidth does not guarantee reliability. Instead of making a significant investment in faster Ethernet, companies can adopt technologies like network interface card (NIC) teaming to improve failover without depleting the budget.

NIC teaming allows multiple NIC ports and adapters to work cooperatively to aggregate bandwidth to increase traffic capabilities and improve resiliency. In Windows Server 2012 R2, this works with Hyper-V networking; incoming traffic can also be spread among teamed NIC ports.

NIC teaming typically keeps each traffic stream on the same interface to reduce out-of-order packet arrival. Teaming also can organize traffic based on physical or virtual machine (VM) media access control (MAC) addresses, hashing (generating unique codes that match traffic streams to assigned interfaces) or broadcasting traffic to all ports.

In failover events where traffic aggregation is compromised, NIC teaming preserves connectivity. In a server that uses two four-port NIC adapters (eight NIC ports in total), for example, a typical teaming/failover scenario might couple one port on both adapters so a fault on one adapter would fail over all traffic to an entirely separate NIC adapter (not just a second port on the same adapter). This would remove the single point of failure from the overall network architecture.

NIC teaming works on Hyper-V virtualized servers, but isn't compatible with single-root I/O virtualization, or SR-IOV, adapters that don't support MAC spoofing. It does not support technologies like remote direct memory access, or RDMA, and TCP Chimney Offload.

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