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vSphere Virtual Networking Components

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Before diving into the components of virtual networking in vSphere, it is essential to understand what virtual networking is.

In a traditional physical network, physical wires and switches connect computers and servers. In contrast, virtual networking creates a virtual representation of a network using software. This allows for greater flexibility, scalability, and efficiency in managing network resources.

Virtual networking in vSphere allows you to create and manage virtual networks, connecting virtual machines (VMs) to each other and to the physical network. Each VM can have its own network interface card (NIC) and network settings, just like a physical machine. With virtual networking, you can easily create, modify, and manage networks to suit your specific requirements.

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vSphere Virtual Networking Components

vSphere virtual networking involves several components that enable communication between virtual machines and the physical network. Some of the key components include:

  1. Virtual Switches (vSwitches): Software-based switches enable virtual machines to communicate with each other and the physical network.
  2. vSwitches can be standard or distributed, providing different levels of functionality and management.
  3. Port Groups: Port groups are a part of a vSwitch and act as a logical grouping for network adapters. They help in defining policies and configurations for network traffic.
  4. VMkernel Adapters: These adapters provide connectivity for services such as vMotion, IP storage, and network management. Services running on the host are associated with them.
  5. Physical Network Adapters: These are the physical network interface cards (NICs) on the host that connect it to the physical network.
  6. Network I/O Control (NIOC): NIOC allows administrators to prioritize network resources and ensure that each type of traffic gets its required share of bandwidth.

vSphere Virtual Networking Types

In vSphere, there are different types of virtual networks that serve various purposes. Some of the common virtual networking types include:

  1. VM Network: Companies use this type of network to connect virtual machines to the physical network. It allows VMs to communicate with each other and with devices on the physical network.
  2. Management Network: The management network manages the ESXi host. It handles the management traffic such as host management, vMotion, and IP storage.
  3. vMotion Network: This network type is dedicated to vMotion traffic, which is used for live migration of virtual machines between hosts.
  4. Fault Tolerance Logging Network: The Fault Tolerance logging network ensures uninterrupted communication between primary and secondary VMs in a Fault Tolerance setup.
  5. Virtual SAN Network: Hyper-converged storage solutions use this type of network for Virtual SAN traffic.
  6. VMkernel Network: Services like vSphere vMotion, IP storage, and management traffic use VMkernel networks.

These components and network types form the foundation of vSphere virtual networking, enabling efficient communication and management of virtualized environments.

Examples of vSwitches

Virtual switches, or vSwitches, serve as software-based network switches utilized in virtualized or cloud computing environments. They facilitate the interconnection of virtual machines within a host and establish connections between virtual machines and external networks. Here are a few examples of vSwitches:

  1. VMware vSphere Standard Switch (vSS): VMware vSphere includes the vSS, which is a basic virtual switch. It provides networking connectivity to virtual machines.
  2. VMware vSphere Distributed Switch (vDS): The vDS is an advanced virtual switch available in VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus. It extends the functionality of the vSS across multiple hosts in a data center.
  3. Microsoft Hyper-V Virtual Switch: Hyper-V includes a virtual switch that enables virtual machines to communicate with each other and with the external network.
  4. Open vSwitch (OVS): OVS is an open-source, production-quality, multilayer virtual switch. Its design enables massive network automation through programmatic extension while still supporting standard management interfaces and protocols.
  5. Cisco Nexus 1000V Switch: This is a software-based switch for VMware vSphere environments that extends the network edge to the virtual server infrastructure.

These vSwitches play a crucial role in enabling communication between virtual machines and connecting them to external networks within virtualized environments.

Features of Different vSwitches

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Open vSwitch

Features of Different vSwitches

Open vSwitch

  • Use Case: Designed for large production environments with multiple physical servers for large-scale network automation. Supports standard management interfaces and protocols.
  • License: Licensed under Apache.
  • Functionality: Supports network automation and standard management interfaces and protocols[3].

Hyper-V Virtual Switch

  • Use Case: Connects VMs to virtual and physical networks external to the Hyper-V host. Provides policy enforcement for security, isolation, and service levels. Can be used for traffic shaping and protecting against malicious VMs. Also useful for creating virtual switch extension plugins.
  • Functionality: Provides policy enforcement for security, isolation, and service levels. Supports traffic shaping and protection against malicious VMs. Useful for creating virtual switch extension plugins[3].

VMware vSwitches

  • Use Case: Ensures a connection between VMs, connects virtual and physical networks, and can be used to connect storage to VMware ESXi hosts or fault tolerance logging networks. Also useful for live migrations of VMs between ESXi hosts.
  • Functionality: Ensures a connection between VMs, connects virtual and physical networks, and can be used to connect storage to VMware ESXi hosts or fault tolerance logging networks. Also useful for live migrations of VMs between ESXi hosts.

Types of Virtual Switches

  • External Virtual Switches: Bind to a physical network card and provide connected VMs with physical external network access.
  • Internal Virtual Switches: These are not linked to a physical network adapter and are entirely software-defined, making them useful for creating isolated environments.
  • Private Virtual Switches: Completely isolate the VM and allow communication only within the private virtual switch network.
  • Distributed Virtual Switches: Extend beyond a single host and help meet the switch demands of clustered virtualized hosts by enabling the cluster nodes to share the same switch across nodes[3].

Interaction with Physical Switches and VM Kernels

  • Functionality: Connects to VMs in a similar way as physical switches, connects to virtual network adapters to connect to physical networks, and detects which VMs are logically connected to its virtual ports. Directs data on a network by checking data packets before moving the packet’s destination.

Additional Information

  • Complexity Reduction: Reduces the complexity of network configurations by decreasing the number of physical switches that would otherwise need to be managed. Provides integrity for VMs with additional network and security settings.

[1] [PDF] VMware vSphere® Product Line Comparison
[2] Overview of vNetwork Distributed Switch concepts (1010555)
[3] What is a Virtual Switch (vSwitch)? – TechTarget

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