DCB ETS Demo with SMB Direct over RoCE (RDMA)

It’s time to demonstrate ETS in action! There is a quick video on ETS on Vimeo to show what it look like.

I’m using Mellanox ConnectX-3 ethernet cards, in 2 node DELL PowerEdge R720 Hyper- cluster lab. We’ve configured the two ports for SMB Direct & set live migration to leverage them both over SMB Direct. For the purpose of this demo we’ll generate non RDMA over RoCE (TCP/IP) traffic over these two 10Gbps ports to simulate a problematic scenario where all bandwidth is already being used and to see how Enhanced Transmission Selection (ETS) will help in this scenario.  I have done this with DELL Force 10, PowerConnect 8100, N4000 series or a mix of both. This particular demo was leveraging PC8132Fs. I use what’s available to me in a lab at the time of writing.

To achieve the network load this we leverage ntttcp.exe to generate the non RDMA TCP/IP traffic. Using the Mellanox QoS counters we visualize this. In blue you see the sending traffic from node A, in red the receiving traffic on Node B. Note that this traffic is tagged with priority 1. We tag SMB Direct traffic with priority 4.


You can see that both Mellanox cards are running at full bandwidth, 2* 10Gbps from node A to node B and it’s all none RDMA traffic. Also note that I’m hitting all 16 physical cores (hyper threading is enabled). By doing so I avoid being bottlenecked by a singe core as in contrast to RDMA traffic there’s no huge CPU offload going on here.image

As these are the cards I have assigned to use for live migration (depending on the setup also  CSV or SOFS traffic) over SMB Direct you’ll see that the competition for bandwidth will be fierce if we don’t have a mechanism to guide this to a desired outcome. That’s exactly what we leverage DCB with PFC and ETS for.

So let’s kick off live migration of 4 virtual machines with 10GB of memory each. That should take about 20 seconds on 2 * 10Gbps cards. We first live migrate them form node B to Node A. That’s in the reverse direction of where we are sending TCP/IP traffic. You see 10Gbps being used all over and this is expected.


Remember that the network is full duplex. That means that you can send at 10Gbps (TCP/IP from node A to node B, RDMA from node B to A and vice versa) and receive at 10Gbps on a port. Actually if the backplane of the switch is powerful enough you can do so on all ports. So this is normal. Node A is sending TCP/IP traffic to node B at line speed and Node B is sending SMB Direct traffic to node A (the live migration) at line speed.

But what if we live migrate over SMB Direct in the same direction as the TCP/IP traffic is going, from node A to node B? Well have a look. To me this looks awesome.


ETS kicks in immediately. We configure the minimum bandwidth for SMB Direct Traffic to be 90%. Anything left after that (10%) is given to other traffic, in this demo the TCP/IP traffic we generated. As priority 4 tagged RoCE traffic is also configured to be lossless with PFC you don’t have to worry about dropping packets under contention. Now think about this and how you can steer your traffic behavior at times when the resources need to be divided amongst competing workloads.

I hope you now have a better idea on why QoS is useful, how it works and that it indeed does work. While I have taken the opportunity to demonstrate this with SMB Direct over RoCE I’d like to stress that QoS is not just about RoCE where it’s  “mandatory” due to the fact it requires at least PFC. It’s a very much a needed tool that’s very beneficial in any converged scenario and that the optional ETS might be a very good idea, depending on your environment.

Again, to get you a better idea, here’s a short, quick video on ETS on Vimeo.

DCB PFC Demo with SMB Direct over RoCE (RDMA)

In this blog post we’ll demo Priority Flow control. We’re using the demo comfit as described in SMB Direct over RoCE Demo – Hosts & Switches Configuration Example

There is also a quick video to illustrate all this on Vimeo. It’s not training course grade I know, but my time to put into these is limited.

I’m using Mellanox ConnectX-3 ethernet cards, in 2 node DELL PowerEdge R720 Hyper- cluster lab. We’ve configured the two ports for SMB Direct & set live migration to leverage them both over SMB Direct. For that purpose we tagged SMB Direct traffic with priority 4 and all other traffic with priority 1. We only made priority lossless as that’s required for RoCE and the other traffic will deal with not being lossless by virtue of being TCP/IP.

Priority Flow Control is about making traffic lossless. Well some traffic. While we’d love to live by Queens lyrics “I want it all, I want it all and I want it now” we are limited. If not so by our budgets, than most certainly by the laws of physics. To make sure we all understand what PFC does here’s a quick reminder: It tells the sending party to stop sending packets, i.e. pause a moment (in our case SMB Direct traffic) to make sure we can handle the traffic without dropping packets. As RoCE is for all practical purposes Infiniband over Ethernet and is not TCP/IP, so you don’t have the benefits of your protocol dealing with dropped packets, retransmission … meaning the fabric has to be lossless*. So no it DOES NOT tell non priority traffic to slow down or stop. If you need to tell other traffic to take a hike, you’re in ETS country 🙂

* If any switch vendor tells you to not bother with DCB and just build (read buy their switches = $$$$$) a lossless fabric (does that exist?) and rely on the brute force quality of their products to have a lossless experience … could be an interesting experiment Smile.

Note: To even be able to start SMB Direct SMB Multichannel must be enabled as this is the mechanism used to identify RDMA capabilities after which a RDMA connection is attempted. If this fails you’ll fall back to SMB Multichannel. So you will have ,network connectivity.

You want RDMA to work and be lossless. To visualize this we can turn to the switch where we leverage the counter statistics to see PFC frames being send or transmitted. A lab example from a DELL PowerConnect 8100/N4000 series below.


To verify that RDMA is working as it should we should also leverage the Mellanox Adapter Diagnostic and native Windows RDMA Activity counters. First of all make sure RDMA is working properly. Basically you want the error counters to be zero and stay that way.

Mellanox wise these must remain at zero (or not climb after you got it right):

  • Responder CQE Errors
  • Responder Duplicate Request Received
  • Responder Out-Of-Order Sequence Received
  • … there’s lots of them …


Windows RDMA Activity wise these should be zero (or not climb after you got it right):

  • RDMA completion Queue Errors
  • RDMA connection Errors
  • RDMA Failed connection attempts


The event logs are also your friend as issues will log entries to look out for like

PowerShell is your friend (adapt severity levels according to your need!)

Get-WinEvent -ListLog “*SMB*” | Get-WinEvent | ? { $_.Level -lt 4 -and $_. Message -like “*RDMA*” } | FL LogName, Id, TimeCreated, Level, Message

Entries like this are clear enough, it ain’t working!

The network connection failed.
Error: The I/O request was canceled.
Connection type: Rdma
This indicates a problem with the underlying network or transport, such as with TCP/IP, and not with SMB. A firewall that blocks port 445 or 5445 can also cause this issue.
RDMA interfaces are available but the client failed to connect to the server over RDMA transport.
Both client and server have RDMA (SMB Direct) adaptors but there was a problem with the connection and the client had to fall back to using TCP/IP SMB (non-RDMA).


To view PFC action in Windows we rely on the Mellanox Adapter QoS Counters


Below you’ll see the number of  pause frames being sent & received on each port. Click on the image to enlarge.


An important note trying to make sense of it all: … pauze and receive frames are sent and received hop to hop. So if you see a pause frame being sent on a server NIC port you should see them being received on the switch port and not on it’s windows target you are live migrating from. The 4 pause frames sent in the screenshot above are received by the switchport as you can see from the PFC Stats for that port.


People, if you don’t see errors in the error counters and event viewer that’s good. If you see the PFC Pause frame counters move up a bit that’s (unless excessive) also good and normal, that PFC doing it’s job making sure the traffic is lossless. If they are zero and stay zero for ever you did not buy a lossless fabric that doesn’t need DCB, it’s more likely you DCB/PFC is not working Winking smile and you do not have a lossless fabric at all. The counters are cumulative over time so they don’t reset to zero bar resetting the NIC or a reboot.


When testing feel free to generate lots of traffic all over the place on the involved ports & switches this helps with seeing all this in action and verifying RDMA/PFC works as it should. I like to use ntttcp.exe to generate traffic, the most recent version will let you really put a load on 10GBps and higher NICs. Hammer that network as hard as you can Winking smile.

Again a simple video to illustrate this on Vimeo.

SMB Direct over RoCE Demo – Hosts & Switches Configuration Example

As mentioned in Where SMB Direct, RoCE, RDMA & DCB fit into the stack this post’s only function is to give you an overview of the configurations used in the demo blogs/videos. First we’ll configure one Windows Server 2012 R2 host. I hope it’s clear this needs to be done on ALL hosts involved. The NICs we’re configuring are the 2 RDMA capable 10GbE NICs we’ll use for CSV traffic, live migration and our simulated backup traffic. These are Mellanox ConnectX-3 RoCE cards we hook up to a DCB capable switch. The commands needed are below and the explanation is in the comments. Do note that the choice of the 2 policies, priorities and minimum bandwidths are for this demo. It will depend on your environment what’s needed.

#Install DCB on the hosts
Install-WindowsFeature Data-Center-Bridging
#Mellanox/Windows RoCE drivers don't support DCBx (yet?), disable it.
Set-NetQosDcbxSetting -Willing $False
#Make sure RDMA is enable on the NIC (should be by default)
Enable-NetAdapterRdma –Name RDMA-NIC1
Enable-NetAdapterRdma –Name RDMA-NIC2
#Start with a clean slate
Remove-NetQosTrafficClass -confirm:$False
Remove-NetQosPolicy -confirm:$False

#Tag the RDMA NIC with the VLAN chosen for PFC network
Set-NetAdapterAdvancedProperty -Name "RDMA-NIC-1" -RegistryKeyword "VlanID" -RegistryValue 110
Set-NetAdapterAdvancedProperty -Name "RDMA-NIC-2" -RegistryKeyword "VlanID" -RegistryValue 120

#SMB Direct traffic to port 445 is tagged with priority 4
New-NetQosPolicy "SMBDIRECT" -netDirectPortMatchCondition 445 -PriorityValue8021Action 4
#Anything else goes into the "default" bucket with priority tag 1 🙂
New-NetQosPolicy "DEFAULT" -default  -PriorityValue8021Action 1

#Enable PFC (lossless) on the priority of the SMB Direct traffic.
Enable-NetQosFlowControl -Priority 4
#Disable PFC on the other traffic (TCP/IP, we don't need that to be lossless)
Disable-NetQosFlowControl 0,1,2,3,5,6,7

#Enable QoS on the RDMA interface
Enable-NetAdapterQos -InterfaceAlias "RDMA-NIC1"
Enable-NetAdapterQos -InterfaceAlias "RDMA-NIC2"

#Set the minimum bandwidth for SMB Direct traffic to 90% (ETS, optional)
#No need to do this for the other priorities as all those not configured
#explicitly goes in to default with the remaining bandwith.
New-NetQoSTrafficClass "SMBDirect" -Priority 4 -Bandwidth 90 -Algorithm ETS

We also show you in general how to setup the switch. Don’t sweat the exact syntax and way of getting it done. It differs between switch vendors and models (we used DELL Force10 S4810 and PowerConnect 8100 / N4000 series switches), it’s all very alike and yet very specific. The important thing is that you see how what you do on the switches maps to what you did on the hosts.

!Disable 802.3x flow control (global pause)- doesn't mix with DCB/PFC
workinghardinit(conf)#interface range tengigabitethernet 0/0 -47 
workinghardinit(conf-if-range-te-0/0-47)#no flowcontrol rx on tx on
workinghardinit(conf-if-range-te-0/0-47)# exit
workinghardinit(conf)# interface range fortyGigE 0/48 , fortyGigE 0/52
workinghardinit(conf-if-range-fo-0/48-52)#no flowcontrol rx on tx off

!Enable DCB & Configure VLANs
workinghardinit(conf)#service-class dynamic dot1p
workinghardinit(conf)#dcb enable
workinghardinit#copy running-config startup-config

!We use a <> VLAN per subnet
workinghardinit(conf)#interface vlan 110
workinghardinit (conf-if-vl-vlan-id*)#tagged tengigabitethernet 0/0-47
workinghardinit (conf-if-vl-vlan-id*)#tagged port-channel 3
workinghardinit(conf)#interface vlan 120
workinghardinit (conf-if-vl-vlan-id*)#tagged tengigabitethernet 0/0-47
workinghardinit (conf-if-vl-vlan-id*)#tagged port-channel 3
workinghardinit (conf-if-vl-vlan-id*)#exit

!Create & configure DCB Map Policy
workinghardinit(conf)#dcb-map SMBDIRECT
workinghardinit(conf-dcbmap-profile-name*)#priority-group 0 bandwidth 90 pfc on 
workinghardinit(conf-dcbmap-profile-name*)#priority-group 1 bandwidth 10 pfc off 
workinghardinit(conf-dcbmap-profile-name*)#priority-pgid 1 1 1 1 0 1 1 1

!Apply DCB map to the switch ports & uplinks
workinghardinit(conf)#interface range ten 0/047
workinghardinit(conf-if-range-te-0/0-47)# dcb-map SMBDIRECT 
workinghardinit(conf)#interface range fortyGigE 0/48 , fortyGigE 0/52
workinghardinit(conf-if-range-fo-0/48,fo-0/52)# dcb-map SMBDIRECT
workinghardinit#copy running-config startup-config 

With the hosts and the switches configured we’re ready for the demos in the next two blog posts. We’ll show Priority Flow Control (PFC) and Enhanced Transmission Selection (ETS) in action with some tips on how to test this yourselves.

SMB Direct with DCB, PFC, ETS … How do I know it works?!

A question that comes up over time, again and again, is how do you know SMB Direct is working. The question stems from a nagging feeling that configuring DCB is a bit of playing wizard’s apprentice and we might not completely know what we’re doing, i.e. lack of experience.


Many have suspected me of brewing up DCB configurations in a dark corner of the data center where no one else dares venture. But those are unsubstantiated rumors. But in coming blog posts we’ll address how to configure it end to end and we’ll show how to find out if it’s really working and how to test that.

Finding out if it really works, testing and monitoring isn’t magic. It boils down to using tools you know. Performance counters for RDMA Activity and SMB direct are natively available in Windows. Use them!The NIC vendors also provide very detailed counters, those are excellent and of great value when testing and confirming things work as they should. The latter is very important. Because after people are satisfied SMB Direct works they want to know if DCB is configured correctly. Does PFC work, are pause frames being send and received? Is it really lossless?  Does ETS really kick in when needed, do I get the minimum bandwidth I configured? These are very valid questions people struggle with. But the answer eludes many, almost like the question if the refrigerator light really goes out when you close the door.

It’s hard to do deep down in the network packets … that often requires a very specialized skillset and experience with packet analyzers etc. Nothing most of you can’t learn but often this is not a priority. But with some creativity and the performance counters on windows provided by the NIC vendors and the statistics counters on the switches you can demonstrate that both PFC & ETS doe work and kick in.

So in upcoming blogs & videos I’ll demonstrate the configuring SMB Direct over RoCE leveraging 2 parts of DCB:

  • PFC (Priority Flow Control) – mandatory for SMB Direct over RoCE
  • ETS (Enhanced Transmission Selection) – optional but I advise you to leveraged it for SMB Direct over RoCE

Actually, when doing true converged, no matter what route you go, QoS is not really optional any more.

The biggest challenge is to get people to wrap their heads around the concepts and it’s behavior. Once you do that you’ll understand how and why to configure it. It took me time and effort, there’s no way around it, but it’s well worth the effort.

Look, DCB is not 100% fully matured or perfect especially in large scale environments over > 2 or 3 hops. Frak, while I love tinkering, testing and playing with this stuff I have never been a “QoS first person”. If I can I thrown resources at the problem (CPU cycles; memory, bandwidth, …). QoS is like a gun. You only draw it when you must use it and than you’d better do it right otherwise you don’t touch it, bar for practice/training/ education. While perfection is not of this world and improvements are being worked on (ECN) it does work and deliver. How many of you had a large scale > 2 hops , > 20 switches deployment with FC, FCoE or iSCSI to worry about? So can it deliver what you need today in most scenarios? Yes! Can I fix the short comings of any random technologies? No. Can I leverage current technologies with great success despite this? Yes! So can you. There is a reason I get hired and paid. Trust me it’s not my looks, my bed side manner or charismatic appearance Winking smile.

Side note 1: I’m cannot possibly provide a switch configuration guide in a step by step fashion as the details vary by vendor, they can also be switch model/type specific and it all depends on your environment & needs. So no I cannot and will not attempt to write a bunch of these. This would be way too much work and way too expensive (time, hardware etc.), so unless I’m paid very generously to do so, you’re out of luck. It might be cheaper to hire me or to come to the free community sessions, presentations, ATE evenings and study up.