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VMkernel Ports

The VMkernel ports, which are also referred to as “VMkernel networking interfaces” or even “virtual adapters” in various places, are special constructs used by the vSphere host to communicate with the outside world. You might recognize these ports due to their naming structure of vmk## with the “vmk” portion being a shorthand for VMkernel.

The goal of a VMkernel port is to provide some sort of Layer 2 or Layer 3 services to the vSphere host. Although a VM can talk to a VMkernel port, they do not consume them directly.

Port Properties and Services

VMkernel ports have important jobs to do and are vital for making sure that the vSphere host can be useful to the VMs. In fact, every VMkernel port can provide any combination of the following six services:

  • vMotion traffic
  • Fault tolerance (FT) logging
  • Management traffic
  • vSphere replication traffic
  • iSCSI traffic
  • NFS traffic

Figure 8.11 shows the administratively selectable services that can be enabled on a VMkernel port.

Figure 8.11

Figure 8.11 Services that can be enabled on a VMkernel port

You might notice that two of the services mentioned aren’t shown as services that can be enabled: iSCSI traffic and NFS traffic. The reason is simple—there is no need to tell a VMkernel port that it can talk to iSCSI or NFS storage. All VMkernel ports can do this natively, and we typically just need to make sure that the IP address assigned to the appropriate VMkernel port is on the same subnet as the storage array.

IP Addresses

Every VMkernel port will have either an IPv4 or IPv6 address assigned, along with an MTU value. You have the choice of using a DHCP server for your IP address—which is not recommended for any serious production deployment—or assigning a static IP address.

Note that the default gateway and DNS server addresses are not definable by a VMkernel port. These values are input into the vSphere host directly. If the subnet you use for the VMkernel port’s IP address does not match the subnet of the destination IP address, the traffic will be routed over the VMkernel port that can reach the default gateway. Often, but not always, this is vmk0 (the default first VMkernel port created when you install ESXi).

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