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Prevent server networking problems when running a hypervisor

Server networking problems that occur when running a hypervisor are typically software-related, but could be addressed with a simple patch.

Virtualization has evolved significantly in the last few years, but system hardware features and drivers may still present configuration and compatibility issues that IT professionals must recognize. Although many such problems have straightforward solutions, it is still important to test and verify each fix in a test environment before rolling it out to production. This prevents unforeseen complications that might disrupt production more than the original problem. A systematic and well-documented approach can also help administrators to roll back system changes that unexpectedly go awry.

How server networking problems can occur when running a hypervisor

Virtualization has greatly refined the use of processor and memory resources, but IT administrators can still readily encounter a variety of network-related problems that appear in the system or virtual machine. Such problems are typically software-related.

One common issue occurs when the virtual machine (VM) fails to identify the network interface card (NIC) properly and cannot communicate with the network. Windows server administrators can see the NIC is marked as an unknown device in Device Manager. This occurs because the correct virtual drivers (called Integration Services or Integration Components) have not been installed on the VM. Once the correct Integration Services are installed, the VM should identify and use all hardware properly.

Another issue may occur when a VM loses network connectivity under a heavy traffic load. This type of problem is related to problems in the way a hypervisor handles heavy network traffic and may be corrected by applying the latest OS patch or update. For example, this problem under Hyper-V and Windows Server 2008 R2 can be corrected with Service Pack 1 or a hotfix. Organizations that are slow to deploy updates and patches to production systems may choose to spend additional time qualifying updates.

Finally, systems suffering from long logon times and poor system performance can sometimes be attributed to problems with NIC drivers. Administrators can actually see unusually high processor utilization while these symptoms occur. The best solution here is to update the NIC drivers and restart the system.

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What server networking problems does your organization face and how does it address them?