Nexus QoS, NetApp trunk ports & VMware IP storage – watch out for this issue

January 27, 2015 — Leave a comment

During the setup of a new vSphere cluster, I had to troubleshoot an issue that was causing latency for the NFS datastores. This new vSphere cluster was attached to a newly setup NetApp storage array with essentially no workloads yet hosted on it.

One of the first symptoms of the latency was noticed when browsing the NFS datastores in the vSphere client GUI. After clicking on Browse Datastore, and then clicking on any VM folder, the window would display “Searching datastore…” and often take 40-50 seconds to display the files. Further testing with the NFS datastores confirmed that slowness was also seen when performing file copy operations, or certain disk intensive operations in the guest OS.

Several weeks were spent troubleshooting and working with vendors to try and determine the cause. It was found that when the configuration on the NetApp storage array side (and switches) was changed to use access ports versus trunk ports, the issue went away. In addition, the issue did not occur when one of the hosts and NetApp storage array were connected to the same datacenter switch. No jumbo frames were in this equation.

The cause of the issue was found to be a conflict between the default behavior of NetApp when using VLAN tagging and the Nexus core switch QoS configuration. By default, NetApp assigns a default CoS value of 4 when using VLAN tagging (trunk ports). This caused the NFS storage traffic to get placed in a queue on the router that was limited in terms of bandwidth. A workaround was implemented on the switches for the storage array interfaces that essentially changed the CoS value to fit with the network configuration in the environment.

Here are some links that helped to connect the dots when researching the issue:

https://kb.netapp.com/support/index?page=content&id=3013708&actp=RSS

http://keepingitclassless.net/2013/12/default-cos-value-in-netapp-cluster-mode/

https://communities.cisco.com/message/137658

http://jeffostermiller.blogspot.com/2012/03/common-nexus-qos-problem.html

http://www.beyondvm.com/2014/07/ucs-networking-adventure-a-tale-of-cos-and-the-vanishing-frames/

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