VMworld 2013: Distributed Switch Deep Dive

Twitter: #VSVC4699, Jason Nash (Varrow)

Jason Nash is always a good speaker, and keeps the presentations interesting with live demos instead of death by PowerPoint. This was a repeat session from last year, with a few new vSphere 5.5 networking enhancements sprinkled in. vSphere 5.5 does not have any major new networking features (NSX is a totally different product), but as you will see from the notes gets some “enhancements”. This session does not cover NSX at all, it is just about the vSphere Distributed switch. I always try and attend a session by Jason each year, and in the past he’s had Nexus 1000v sessions which I found very helpful for real-world deployment.

Standard vSwitches

  • They are not all bad
  • Easy to troubleshoot
  • Not many advanced features
  • Not much development doing into them

Why bother with the VDS?

  • Easier to administer for medium to large environments
  • New features: NOIC, port mirroring, NetFlow, Security (private VLANs), ingress and egress traffic shaping, LACP

Compared to Others?

  • VDS (vSphere Distributed Switch)
  • Cisco Nexus 1000v
  • IBM 5000v (little usage)
  • VDS competes very well in all areas
  • Significant advancements in 5.1 and minor updates in 5.5

vSphere 5.5 New Features

  • Enhanced LACP – Multiple LAGs per ESXi host
  • Enhanced SR-IOV – Most of the software stack is now bypassed
  • Support for 40g Ethernet
  • DSCP Marking (QoS)
  • Host level packet capture
  • Basic ACLs in the VDS
  • pktcap

Why should you deploy it?

  • Innovative features: Network I/O control, load-based teaming
  • Low complexity
  • Included in Enterprise Plus licensing
  • No special hardware required
  • Bit of a learning curve, but not much


  • VDS architecture has two main components
  • Management or control plane are integrated into vCenter
  • Data plane is made up of hidden vSwitches on the vSphere host
  • Can use physical or virtual vCenters
  • vCenter is key and holds the configuration

Traffic Separation with VDS

  • A single VDS can only have one uplink configuration
  • Two options: Active/Standby/Unused or multiple VDS
  • Usually prefer a single VDS
  • Kendrickcoleman.com

Lab Walk Through

  • If using LACP/LAG, make sure one side is active, one is passive
  • LACP/LAG hashing algorithms must match on BOTH sides otherwise weird problems can happen
  • When using LAG groups, the end state must have all NICs active (can’t use active/standby)
  • Private VLAN config requires physical switch configuration and support
  • Netflow switch IP is just the IP address shown in the logs to correlate the data to a switch. The traffic will not be coming from that IP.
  • Encapsulated remote mirroring (L3) source is the most common spanning config
  • Switch health checks runs once per minute – Checks things such as jumbo frames and switch VLAN configuration
  • Don’t use ephemeral binding if you want to track net stats (could be used for VDI)
  • Use static port binding for most server workloads
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