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2 NICs and WHS. Is it supported?


jcollison
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I just got a tweet from @kromseesall questioning something I had said on Podcast 67. I am assuming that WHS can take advantage of dual NICs (teaming?) for a faster connection. Anyone know if am right or wrong?

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It is possible as server 2003 (WHS's base OS) supports it, but it depends on whether the specific NIC drivers support teaming, and if the switch being used supports link aggregation. This will only be helpful if there are multiple "clients" connecting at once, as each single connection is assigned 1 link through the NIC teaming algorithm. EX: a 1 pc to 1 whs connection won't use both teamed nics at once.

More than likely the disk I/O will be the bottleneck instead of fully saturating one gigabit link unless it's a frankenbuild with a hardware raid array. If they're on 10/100 then it would be the NIC causing the bottleneck, and theoretically with multiple clients it could be beneficial.

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Thanks wodysweb for the Info. and Jim for posting the question. So more than likely it won't be helpful in the standard home environment.

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There are multiple facets to this question. Can a computer have 2 NIC's. Yes it can. My laptop has a wired and a wireless. However, when transferring to a common point (switch, router), it will only use 1 at a time. The exception to this is to do what is called Teaming (as was noted in the previous posts). This usually has to be supported by the network card or the switch. I don't think any consumer-level switches support this natively, so lets ignore that side. Thus, we would need support from the server side. If you have an Intel professional level network card (even the network cards on most Intel based Desktop motherboards actually runs the physical layer through an 3rd party chip such as Marvell), that is an option you can enable in the drivers. If you have a consumer level card, chances are really good that you won't be able to use both at the same time.

So would 2 NIC's be worthless? Not necessarily. Notice in the above I said that it wouldn't work if they were going to a common point. What if you were going to 2 separation locations? Say you had a wireless network and a wired network and they weren't directly linked to each other. If you had the WHS sitting in between, you can "bridge" the 2 networks on your WHS which will pass all data from the wireless to the wired network through the WHS. The plus side of that is that you can transfer information to each network independently, and thus be transferring data a higher rate than the peak of a single card.

So in short, for most people it won't be useful to have 2 NIC's in your WHS. However, for a very select few, it could have limited utility.

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iscsi is a protocal that sends scsi commands over an IP network. You can have a hardware or a software iscsi setup (The cards are $$ and the software works very well). The setup of the hardware card based iscsi is similar in nature to the software but they usually come with their own software etc so this info does not apply to them.
Software iscsi
You can download the Microsoft iSCSI Initiator software for free from MS but the newer os come with it already. To set it up it works best with a dedicated NIC that has a static IP. You set up your iscsi array with a static as well (you can you DHCP but just save yourself the grief and go with a static IP). When you start to configure the iscsi connection you have to enter in your source IP (that of the dedicated NIC) and run "discovery" to see a target IP (that of the drive array). Without getting too technical about IQN or LUNs once you have specified your source connection and your target connection you can configure things like log in automatically at restart (so you don't have to map out the connection each time). Once you have done this the array should appear in Windows Disk Management and you can partition/format it as you like.
A few cool things about iscsi is that the drive array can be far away from your computer ie out in the garage or down in the basement so you don't have the noise pollution. You can also run multiple iscsi arrays off the same NIC and if you add additional nics you can do round robin fail over connections and out of band connections (main network is on 192.168.1.x range and the storage is on 192.168.3.X). With high quality cabling you will get some unreal data transfer speeds. The price is Iscsi arrays has really come down in the past few years but they are still a little pricy for home use (the Drobo and a few of the cheaper Promise iscsi devices are reasonable priced). If you are looking for super simple iscsi the Drobo Pro dashboard software will do all the connections for you and only use a single NIC...having said that I found the performance was much better on my Drobo Pro when I configured it myself.

If there are any specific questions on iscsi feel free to ask.

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  • 3 years later...

I have 2 NICs, and since I started using both, my speed has dropped to 3~4 MB/s. One is a gigabit connection, the other a 100 mbit. I am using two because I have my server (WHS 2011) set as a DMZ, but I can't access the media on my TV unless it has a private IP address. But now when I connect to it my speed has dropped to about 10% of what it used to be. Even if it were using the Least Common Factor (100 mbit) I would expect to see at least 8 or 9. I am connecting from gigabit NICs on my other computers, excluding my laptop. One computer runs through 2 gigabit switches before hitting the server, the other is connected to the same switch as the server. The speed was fine (40 MB/s starting, 25 average), but since using 2 NICs it's been crawling. Is there a way to fix this? Like by turning off some feature? I'd like to not have to resort to just my gigabit connection because I still want the server to have both IP addresses. If I bridge the connections can I still use two IPs?Whatever will fix this will help me a LOT. I never had this issue on Windows Server 2008 Enterprise.

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I've found a solution. Here's what I did:

 

I realized that my router restricts traffic so that I will only get the 4 MB/s. I was using that IP because I knew that was the one on the gigabit connection. When I used the one on the FE connection, I was able to get the full 12.5 MB/s (It was actually like 14 at first). So I simply changed my firewall to allow my 100 mbit as the DMZ (So that IT had the public IP), and the gigabit was my private connection. So now I can use both depending on where I cam without the performance drop

 

This is WHS 2011, so on this edition you CAN indeed use 2 NICs if you want to assign different IP addresses. Just beware of your network infrastructure so that you know what might slow it down. WHS 2011 also supports bridging, but I did not try it. If I ever go to a RAID configuration I will install my second gigabit card and bridge the connections to see what I get. For now, I'm happy getting the 40 MB/s on my old 7200 RPM SATA I. I will upgrade, but it's requiring a complete rebuild ;)

 

Anyways, upgrade to WHS 2011 if you want to use multiple NICs, particularly with multiple IP Addresses. Let me know if you have any questions

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