Unleash the true potential of SRIOV vNIC using vNIC failover !

I’m always working on tight schedule, I never have the time to write documentation because we’re moving fast, very fast … but not as fast as I want to ;-). A few months ago we were asked to put the TSM servers in our PowerVC environment I thought it was a very very bad idea to put a pet among the cattle as TSM servers are very specific and super I/O intensive in our environment (and are configured with plenty of rmt devices. This means that we tried to put lan-free stuffs into Openstack which is not designed at all for this kind of things). In my previous place we tried to put the TSM servers behind a virtualized environment (this means serving network through Shared Ethernet Adapters) and this was an EPIC FAIL. A few weeks after putting the servers in production we decided to move back to physical I/O and decided to used dedicated network adapters. As we didn’t want to make the same mistake in my current place we decided not to go on Shared Ethernet Adapters. Instead of that we took the decision to use SRIOV vNIC. SRIOV vNIC have the advantage to be fully virtualized (this means LPM aware and super flexible) allowing us to have the wanted flexibility (by moving TSM servers between sites if we feel the need to put a host in maintenance mode or if we are facing any kind of outage). In my previous blog post about vNIC I was very happy with the performance but not with the reliability. I didn’t want to go on NIB adapters for network redundancy (because it is an anti-virtualization way of doing things (we do not want to manage anything inside the VM, we want to let the virtualization environment do the job for us)). Lucky for me the project was reschedule to the end of the year and we finally took the decision not to put the TSM server into our big Openstack by dedicating some hosts for the backup stuffs. The latest version of PowerVM, HMC and firmware arrived just at time to let me use SRIOV vNIC failover new feature for this new TSM environment (fortunately for me we had some data center issues allowing me to wait enough time not to go on NIB and start the production directly with SRIOV vNIC \o/). I just have delivered the first four servers to my backup team yesterday and I must admit that SRIOV vNIC failover is a killer feature for this kind of things. Let’s now see how to setup this !


As always using the latest features means you need to have everything up to date. In this case the minimal requierements for SRIOV vNIC failover are Virtual I/O Servers, Hardware Management Console v8R860 with the latest patchs and finally having a firmware up to date (ie. fw 860). Note that not all AIX versions are ok with SRIOV vNIC I’m here only using AIX 7.2 TL1 SP1:

  • Check the Virtual I/O Server are installed in
  • # ioslevel
  • Check the HMC is in the latest version (V8R860)
  • hscroot@myhmc:~> lshmc -V
    "version= Version: 8
     Release: 8.6.0
     Service Pack: 0
    HMC Build level 20161101.1
    MH01655: Required fix for HMC V8R8.6.0 (11-01-2016)


  • Check the firmware version is ok on the PowerSystem:
  • # updlic -o u -t sys -l latest -m reptilian-9119-MME-659707C -r mountpoint -d /home/hscroot/860_056/ -v
    # lslic -m reptilan-9119-MME-65BA46F -F activated_level,activated_spname


What’s SRIOV vNIC failover and how it works ?

I’ll not explain here what’s an SRIOV vNIC, if you want to know more about it just check my previous blog post speaking about this topic A first look at SRIOV vNIC adapters. What’s failover is adding is a feature allowing you to add as “many” backing devices as you want for a vNIC adapter (the maximum is 6 backing devices). For each backing device you have the possibility to choose on which Virtual I/O Server will be created the corresponding vnicserver and set a failover priority to determine which backing device is active. Keep in mind that priorities are working the exact same way as it is with Shared Ethernet Adapter. This means that priority 10 is an higher priority than priority 20.


On the example shown on the images above and below the vNIC is configured with two backing devices (on two differents SRIOV adapters) with priority 10 and 20. As long as there is no outage (for instance on the Virtual I/O Server or on the adapter itself) the physical port utilized will be the one with priority 10. If the adapter has for instance an hardware issue we will have the possiblity to manually fallback on the second backing device or let the hypervisor do this for us by checking the next highest priority to choose the right backing device to use. Easy. This allow us to have redundant LPM aware and high performance adapters fully virtualized. A MUST :-) !


Creating a SRIOV vNIC failover using the HMC GUI and administrating it

To create or delete an SRIOV vNIC failover adapter (I’ll call this vNIC for the rest of the blog post) the machine must be shutdown or active (this is not possible to add a vNIC when a machine is booted in OpenFirmware). The only way to do this using the HMC GUI is to used the enhanced interface (no problem as we will have no other choice in a near future). Select the machine on which you want to create the adapter and click on the “Virtual NICs” tab.


Click “Add Virtual NIC”:


Chose the “Physical Port Location Code” (the physical port of the SRIOV adapter) on which you want to create the vNIC. You can add from one to six “backup adapter” (by clicking the “Add Entry” buton). This means that only one vNIC will be active at a moment. If this one is failing (adapter issue, network issue) the vNIC will failover to the next backup adapter depending on the “Failover priority”. Be careful to spread the hosting Virtual I/O Server to be sure that having a Virtual I/O Server down will be seamless for you partition:


On the example above:

  • I’m creating a vNIC failover with “vNIC Auto Priority Failover” enabled.
  • Four VF will be created two on the VIOS ending with 88, two on the VIOS ending with 89.
  • Obviously four vnicservers will be created on the VIOS (2 on each).
  • The lower priority will take the lead. This means That if the first one with priority 10 is failing the active adapter will be the second one. Then if the second one with priority 20 is failing the third one will be active and so on. Keep in my that if your lower priority is ok nothing will appends if one on the other backup adapter is failing. Be smart when choosing the priorities. As Yoda says “Wise you must be!”.
  • The physical ports are located on different CECs.


The “Advanced Virtual NIC Settings” is applied to all the vNIC that will be created (in the example above 4). For instance I’m using vlan tagging on these port so I just need to apply the “Port VLAN ID” one time.


You can choose or not to allow the hypervisor to perform the failover/fallback automatically depending on the priorities you have set. If you click “enable” the hypervisor will automatically failover to the next operational backing device depending on the priorities. If it is disabled only a user can trigger a failover operation.


Be careful the priorities are designed the same way they are on Shared Ethernet Adapter. This means the lowest number you will have in the failover priority will be the “highest priority failover” just like it is designed for Shared Ethernet Adapter. On the image below you can notice that the “priority” 10 which is the “highest failover priority” is active (but it is the lowest number between 10 20 30 and 40)


After the creation of the vNIC you can check differents stuffs on the Virtual I/O Server. You will notice that every entry added for the creation of the vNIC has a corresponding VF (virtual function) and a corresponding vnicserver (each vnicserver has a VF mapped on it):

  • You can see that for each entry added when creating a vNIC you’ll have the corresponding VF device present on the Virtual I/O Servers:
  • vios1# lsdev -type adapter -field name physloc description | grep "VF"
    ent3             U78CA.001.CSS08ZN-P1-C3-C1-T2-S5                                  PCIe3 4-Port 10GbE SR Adapter VF(df1028e21410e304)
    ent4             U78CA.001.CSS08EL-P1-C3-C1-T2-S6                                  PCIe3 4-Port 10GbE SR Adapter VF(df1028e21410e304)
    vios2# lsdev -type adapter -field name physloc description | grep "VF"
    ent3             U78CA.001.CSS08ZN-P1-C4-C1-T2-S2                                  PCIe3 4-Port 10GbE SR Adapter VF(df1028e21410e304)
    ent4             U78CA.001.CSS08EL-P1-C4-C1-T2-S2                                  PCIe3 4-Port 10GbE SR Adapter VF(df1028e21410e304)
  • For each VF you’ll see the corresponding vnicserver devices:
  • vios1# lsdev -type adapter -virtual | grep vnicserver
    vnicserver1      Available   Virtual NIC Server Device (vnicserver)
    vnicserver2      Available   Virtual NIC Server Device (vnicserver)
    vios2# lsdev -type adapter -virtual | grep vnicserver
    vnicserver1      Available   Virtual NIC Server Device (vnicserver)
    vnicserver2      Available   Virtual NIC Server Device (vnicserver)
  • You can check the corresponding mapped VF for each vnicserver using the ‘lsmap’ command. You can check on funny thing: when the adapter was never “used” by using the “Make the backing Device Active” button in the GUI the corresponding client name and Client device will not be showed:
  • vios1# lsmap -all -vnic -fmt :
    vios2# lsmap -all -vnic
    Name          Physloc                            ClntID ClntName       ClntOS
    ------------- ---------------------------------- ------ -------------- -------
    vnicserver1   U9119.MME.659707C-V1-C32898             6 N/A            N/A
    Backing device:ent3
    Client device name:ent0
    Client device physloc:U9119.MME.659707C-V6-C6
    Name          Physloc                            ClntID ClntName       ClntOS
    ------------- ---------------------------------- ------ -------------- -------
    vnicserver2   U9119.MME.659707C-V1-C32899             6 N/A            N/A
    Backing device:ent4
    Client device name:N/A
    Client device physloc:U9119.MME.659707C-V6-C6
  • You can activate the device by yourself just by clicking the “Make backing Device Active Button” in the GUI and check the vnicserver is now logged:
  • vnic1i

    vios2# lsmap -all -vnic -vadapter
  • I noticed something pretty strange for me. When you are doing a manual failover of the vNIC the auto-priority will be set to disable. Remember to re-enable it after the manual operation was performed:
  • vnic1k

    You can also check the status and the priority of the vNIC in the Virtual I/O Server using the vnicstat command. Some good information are showed by the command, the state of the device, if it is active or not (I have noticed 2 different states in my test which are “active” (meaning this is the vf/vnicserver you are using) and “config_2″ meaning the adapter is ready and available for a failover operation (there is probably another state when the link is down but I didn’t had the time to ask my network team to shut a port to verify this)) and finally the failover priority. The vnicstat command is a root command.

    vios1#  vnicstat vnicserver1
    VNIC Server Statistics: vnicserver1
    Device Statistics:
    State: active
    Backing Device Name: ent3
    Failover State: active
    Failover Readiness: operational
    Failover Priority: 10
    Client Partition ID: 6
    Client Partition Name: lizard
    Client Operating System: AIX
    Client Device Name: ent0
    Client Device Location Code: U9119.MME.659707C-V6-C6
    vios2# vnicstat vnicserver1
    VNIC Server Statistics: vnicserver1
    Device Statistics:
    State: config_2
    Backing Device Name: ent3
    Failover State: inactive
    Failover Readiness: operational
    Failover Priority: 20

    You can also check vnic server events in this errpt (login when failover and so on …)

    # errpt | more
    8C577CB6   1202195216 I S vnicserver1    VNIC Transport Event
    60D73419   1202194816 I S vnicserver1    VNIC Client Login
    # errpt -aj 60D73419 | more
    IDENTIFIER:     60D73419
    Date/Time:       Fri Dec  2 19:48:06 2016
    Sequence Number: 10567
    Machine Id:      00C9707C4C00
    Node Id:         vios2
    Class:           S
    Type:            INFO
    WPAR:            Global
    Resource Name:   vnicserver1
    VNIC Client Login
    Probable Causes
    VNIC Client Login
    Failure Causes
    VNIC Client Login

    Same thing using the hmc command line.

    Now we will do the same thing in command line. I warn you the commands are pretty huge !!!!

    • List the sriov adapter (you will need those to create the vNICs):
    • # lshwres -r sriov --rsubtype adapter -m reptilian-9119-MME-65BA46F
    • List vNIC for virtual machine “lizard”:
    • lshwres -r virtualio  -m reptilian-9119-MME-65BA46F --rsubtype vnic --level lpar --filter "lpar_names=lizard"
    • Creates a vNIC with 2 backing devices first one on Virtual I/O Server 1 on adapter 1 on physical port 2 with a failover priority set to 10, second one on Virtual I/O Server 2 on adapter 3 on physical port 2 with a failover priority set to 20 (this vNIC will take the next available slot which will be 6) (WARNING: Physical port numbering starts from 0):
    • #chhwres -r virtualio -m reptilian-9119-MME-65BA46F -o a -p lizard --rsubtype vnic -v -a 'port_vlan_id=3455,auto_priority_failover=1,backing_devices="sriov/vios1//1/1/2.0/10,sriov/vios1//3/1/2.0/20"'
      #lshwres -r virtualio -m reptilian-9119-MME-65BA46F --rsubtype vnic --level lpar --filter "lpar_names=lizard"
    • Add two backing devices (one on each vios on adapter 2 and 4, both on physical port 2 with failover priority set to 30 and 40) on vNIC with slot 6:
    • # chhwres -r virtualio -m reptilian-9119-MME-65BA46F -o s --rsubtype vnic -p lizard -s 6 -a '"backing_devices+=sriov/vios1//2/1/2.0/30,sriov/vios2//4/1/2.0/40"'
      # lshwres -r virtualio -m reptilian-9119-MME-65BA46F --rsubtype vnic --level lpar --filter "lpar_names=lizard"
    • Change the failover priority of logical port 2700400b of the vNIC in slot 6 to 11:
    • # chhwres -m reptilian-9119-MME-65BA46F -r virtualio -o s --rsubtype vnicbkdev -p lizard -s 6 --logport 2700400b -a "failover_priority=11"
      # lshwres -r virtualio -m reptilian-9119-MME-65BA46F --rsubtype vnic --level lpar --filter "lpar_names=lizard"
    • Make logical port 27008005 active on vNIC in slot 6:
    • # chhwres -m reptilian-9119-MME-65BA46F -r virtualio -o act --rsubtype vnicbkdev -p lizard  -s 6 --logport 27008005 
      # lshwres -r virtualio -m reptilian-9119-MME-65BA46F --rsubtype vnic --level lpar --filter "lpar_names=lizard"
    • Re-enable automatic failover on vNIC in slot 6:
    • # chhwres -m reptilian-9119-MME-65BA46F -r virtualio -o s --rsubtype vnic -p lizard  -s 6 -a "auto_priority_failover=1"
      # lshwres -r virtualio -m reptilian-9119-MME-65BA46F --rsubtype vnic --level lpar --filter "lpar_names=lizard"

    Testing the failover.

    It’s now time to test is the failover is working as intended. The test will be super simple I will just shutoff one of the two Virtual I/O Server and check if I’m loosing some packets or not. I’m first checking on which VIOS is located the active adapter:


    I now need to shutdown the Virtual I/O Server ending with 88 and check if the one ending with 89 is taking the lead:

    *****88# shutdown -force 

    Priorities 10 and 30 are on the shutted Virtual I/O Server, the highest priority is on the active Virtual I/O Server is 20. This backing device hosted on the second Virtual I/O Server is serving the network I/Os;


    You can check the same thing with command line on the remaining Virtual I/O Server:

    *****89# errpt | more
    60D73419   1202214716 I S vnicserver0    VNIC Client Login
    60D73419   1202214716 I S vnicserver1    VNIC Client Login
    *****89# vnicstat vnicserver1
    VNIC Server Statistics: vnicserver1
    Device Statistics:
    State: active
    Backing Device Name: ent3
    Failover State: active
    Failover Readiness: operational
    Failover Priority: 20

    During my tests the failover was working as I expected. You can see on the picture below that during this test I only lost one ping between 64 and 66 during the failover/failback process.


    In the partition I saw some messaging in the errpt during the failover:

    # errpt | mroe 
    4FB9389C   1202215816 I S ent0           VNIC Link Up
    F655DA07   1202215816 I S ent0           VNIC Link Down
    # errpt -a | more
    56FB 2DB8 A406
    physical link: DOWN   logical link: DOWN
    56FB 2DB8 A406
    physical link: UP   logical link: UP

    What about Live Partition Mobility.

    If you want a seamless LPM experience without having to choose the destination adapter and physical port on which to map you current vNIC backing devices on the destination, just fill the label and sublabel (most important is label) for each physical port of your SRIOV adapter. Then during the LPM if names are aligned between two systems the good physical port will be automatically chose depending on the names of the label:


    The LPM was working like a charm and I didn’t notice any particular problems during the move. vNIC failover and LPM are working ok as long as you take care of your SRIOV labels :-). I did notice on AIX 7.2 TL1 SP1 that there was no errpt messages in the partition itself but just in the Virtual I/O Server … weird :-)

    # errpt | more
    3EB09F5A   1202222416 I S Migration      Migration completed successfully


    No long story here. If you need performance AND flexibility you absolutely have to use SRIOV vNIC failover adapters. This feature offers you the best of two worlds having the possibility to dedicate 10GB adapters with a failover capability without having to be worried about LPM or about NIB configuration. It’s not applicable in all cases but it’s definitely something to have for an environment such as TSM or network I/O intensive workloads. Use it !

    About reptilians !

    Before you start reading this, keep your sense of humor and be noticed that what I say is not related to my workplace at all it’s a general way of thinking not especially based on my experience. Don’t be offended by this it’s just a personal opinion based on things I may or may have not seen during my life. You’ve been warned.

    This blog was never a place to share my opinions about life and society but I must admit that I should have done that before. Speaking about this kind of things makes you feel alive in world where everything needs to be ok and where you don’t have anymore the right to feel or express something about what you are living. There are couple of good blog posts speaking of this kind of things and related to the IT world. I agree with all of what is said in these posts. Some of the authors of these posts are just telling what they love in their daily jobs but I think it’s also a way to say what they probably won’t love in another one :-) :

    • Adam Leventhal’s “I’m not a resource”: here
    • Brendan Gregg’s “Working at Netflix in 2016″: here

    All of this to say that I work at nights, I work on weekends, I’m thinking about PowerSystems/computers when I fall asleep. I always have new ideas and I always want to learn new things, discover new technologies and features. I truly, deeply love this but being like this does not help me and will never help me in my daily job for one single reason. In this world people who have the knowledge are not people who are taking technical decisions it’s sad but true. I’m just good at working the most I can for the less money possible. Nobody cares if techs are happy, unhappy, want to stay or leave. I doesn’t make any differences for anyone driving a company. What’s important is money. Everything is meaningless. We are no one we are nothing, just number in a excel spreadsheet. I’m probably saying because I’m not good enough in anything to find an acceptable workplace. Once again sad but true.

    Even worst, if you just want to follow what’s the industry is asking you have to be everywhere and know everything. I know I’ll be forced in a very near future to move on Devops/ Linux (I love Linux I’m an RHCE certified engineer !). That’s why since a couple of years now, at night after my daily job is finished I’m working again: working to understand how Docker is working, working to install my own Openstack on my own machines, working to understand Saltstack, Ceph, Python, Ruby, Go …. it’s a never ending process. But it’s still not enough for them ! No enough to be consider as good or good enough guy to fit for a job. I remember being asked to know about Openstack, Cassandra, Hadoop, AWS, KVM, Linux, Automation tools (puppet this time), Docker and continuous integration for one single job application. First, I seriously doubt that someone will have such skills and be good at each. Second even if I’m an expert on each one if you have a look a few years ago it was the exact same thing but with different products. You have to understand and be good at every new products in minutes. All of this to understand that one or two years after you are considered as an “expert” you are bad at everything that exists in the industry. I’m really sick of this fight against something I can’t control. Being a hard worker and clever enough to understand every new features is not enough nowadays. On top of that you also need to be a beautiful person with a nice perfect smile wearing a perfect suit. You also have to be on LinkedIn and be connected with the good persons. And even if every of these boxes are checked you still need to be lucky enough to be at the right place at the right moment. I’m so sick of this. Work doesn’t pay. Only luck. I don’t want to live in this kind of world but I have to. Anyway this is just a “two-cents” way of thinking. Everything is probably a big trick orchestrated by this reptilians lizard mens ! ^^. Be good at what you do and don’t care about what people are thinking of you (even your horrible french accent during your sessions) … that’s the most important !


    8 thoughts on “Unleash the true potential of SRIOV vNIC using vNIC failover !

    1. I like this but LACP is a requirement for me. With vNIC failover it wont mark a NIC as failed unless it is local to the CEC or the port itself detects link down. So if my switch loses connectivity to the router while the port remains up I now have a system down event.

        • The SEA is using the LACP adapter as the parent and the physical ports are on separate switches. We could lose the uplink to a whole switch and would still be online.

          • I don’t really understand what you try to say:
            1/ With vNIC or vNIC failover, physical port of each VF can be plugged on different switches … like you do with LACP. (losing a switch or a CEC won’t be a problem (take physical ports from 2 different adapters on 2 different CEC and plug them on different network switch)
            2/ You’ll have the exact same problem on SEA if your design is the same. For instance if router is down (no gateway available anymore) both vNIC and SEA won’t see it (but NIB do (with address to ping)).
            3/ As you can plug each physical ports on different switch for each vNIC backing device, loosing a switch won’t be a problem. LACP or not. From my understanding the only thing you can’t do is “pure” aggregation (ie. 2x10Gb for a 20Gb bandwidth) (but I seriously doubt that you need more than 10Gb for one single lpar).

            • Using your example of having two separate leaf switches connected to a core router. Lets say my primary vNIC port is on leaf switch A and backup on switch B. Network admin schedules maintenance on leaf switch A and breaks the uplink from A to core. My port on switch A is not down so no failover occurs. Now there is no valid network path to the core router and I have an application outage.
              If vNIC backup provided an address to ping (like NIB) it would have the ability to failover in this type of outage.
              I have previously had this very outage on an older system that was configured with NIB but no address to ping. The systems that used LACP were unaffected.

    2. VNIC failover is awesome and I can’t wait to try it. But, for me, the best bit of the entire post, was this:

      “Be good at what you do and don’t care about what people are thinking of you”!

      Right on!

      Please keep up the great work. You are an important member of the Power Systems community. Lot’s and lots of people follow your work and really like it. Please don’t forget that!


      • Thank you Chris !
        I must admit that I’m questioning myself about the future and how it will looks like. I definitely need to find a place where I can do both AIX AND Linux on Power …. not that simple :(.
        Thank you so much for this comment. It means a lot.
        Take care.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>