Observe the following best practices for the configuration of host NICs and network topology for vSphere HA. Best Practices include recommendations for your ESXi hosts, and for cabling, switches, routers, and firewalls.

Network Configuration and Maintenance

The following network maintenance suggestions can help you avoid the accidental detection of failed hosts and network isolation because of dropped vSphere HA heartbeats.

  • When changing the networks that your clustered ESXi hosts are on, suspend the Host Monitoring feature. Changing your network hardware or networking settings can interrupt the heartbeats that vSphere HA uses to detect host failures, which might result in unwanted attempts to fail over virtual machines.
  • When you change the networking configuration on the ESXi hosts themselves, for example, adding port groups, or removing vSwitches, suspend Host Monitoring. After you have made the networking configuration changes, you must reconfigure vSphere HA on all hosts in the cluster, which causes the network information to be reinspected. Then re-enable Host Monitoring.
Note: Because networking is a vital component of vSphere HA, if network maintenance must be performed inform the vSphere HA administrator.

Networks Used for vSphere HA Communications

To identify which network operations might disrupt the functioning of vSphere HA, you must know which management networks are being used for heart beating and other vSphere HA communications.

  • On legacy ESX hosts in the cluster, vSphere HA communications travel over all networks that are designated as service console networks. VMkernel networks are not used by these hosts for vSphere HA communications. To contain vSphere HA traffic to a subset of the ESX console networks, use the allowedNetworks advanced option.
  • On ESXi hosts in the cluster, vSphere HA communications, by default, travel over VMkernel networks. With an ESXi host, if you want to use a network other than the one vCenter Server uses to communicate with the host for vSphere HA, you must explicitly enable the Management traffic check box.

To keep vSphere HA agent traffic on the networks you have specified, configure hosts so vmkNICs used by vSphere HA do not share subnets with vmkNICs used for other purposes. vSphere HA agents send packets using any pNIC that is associated with a given subnet when there is also at least one vmkNIC configured for vSphere HA management traffic. Therefore, to ensure network flow separation, the vmkNICs used by vSphere HA and by other features must be on different subnets.

Network Isolation Addresses

A network isolation address is an IP address that is pinged to determine whether a host is isolated from the network. This address is pinged only when a host has stopped receiving heartbeats from all other hosts in the cluster. If a host can ping its network isolation address, the host is not network isolated, and the other hosts in the cluster have either failed or are network partitioned. However, if the host cannot ping its isolation address, it is likely that the host has become isolated from the network and no failover action is taken.

By default, the network isolation address is the default gateway for the host. Only one default gateway is specified, regardless of how many management networks have been defined. Use the das.isolationaddress[...] advanced option to add isolation addresses for additional networks. See vSphere HA Advanced Options.

Network Path Redundancy

Network path redundancy between cluster nodes is important for vSphere HA reliability. A single management network ends up being a single point of failure and can result in failovers although only the network has failed. If you have only one management network, any failure between the host and the cluster can cause an unnecessary (or false) failover activity if heartbeat datastore connectivity is not retained during the networking failure. Possible failures include NIC failures, network cable failures, network cable removal, and switch resets. Consider these possible sources of failure between hosts and try to minimize them, typically by providing network redundancy.

The first way you can implement network redundancy is at the NIC level with NIC teaming. Using a team of two NICs connected to separate physical switches improves the reliability of a management network. Because servers connected through two NICs (and through separate switches) have two independent paths for sending and receiving heartbeats, the cluster is more resilient. To configure a NIC team for the management network, configure the vNICs in vSwitch configuration for Active or Standby configuration. The recommended parameter settings for the vNICs are:

  • Default load balancing = route based on originating port ID
  • Failback = No

After you have added a NIC to a host in your vSphere HA cluster, you must reconfigure vSphere HA on that host.

In most implementations, NIC teaming provides sufficient heartbeat redundancy, but as an alternative you can create a second management network connection attached to a separate virtual switch. Redundant management networking allows the reliable detection of failures and prevents isolation or partition conditions from occurring, because heartbeats can be sent over multiple networks. The original management network connection is used for network and management purposes. When the second management network connection is created, vSphere HA sends heartbeats over both management network connections. If one path fails, vSphere HA still sends and receives heartbeats over the other path.

Note: Configure the fewest possible number of hardware segments between the servers in a cluster. The goal being to limit single points of failure. Also, routes with too many hops can cause networking packet delays for heartbeats, and increase the possible points of failure.

Using IPv6 Network Configurations

Only one IPv6 address can be assigned to a given network interface used by your vSphere HA cluster. Assigning multiple IP addresses increases the number of heartbeat messages sent by the cluster's primary host with no corresponding benefit.