Shared Ethernet Adapters

With Shared Ethernet Adapters on the Virtual I/O Server logical partition, virtual Ethernet adapters on client logical partitions can send and receive outside network traffic.

A Shared Ethernet Adapter is a Virtual I/O Server component that bridges a physical Ethernet adapter and one or more virtual Ethernet adapters:

  • The real adapter can be a physical Ethernet adapter, a Link Aggregation or Etherchannel device, a Logical Host Ethernet Adapter, or an SR-IOV logical port. The real adapter cannot be another Shared Ethernet Adapter or a VLAN pseudo-device.
  • The virtual Ethernet adapter must be a virtual I/O Ethernet adapter. It cannot be any other type of device or adapter.
  • All virtual Ethernet adapters in a Shared Ethernet Adapter must be members of the same virtual switch.

Using a Shared Ethernet Adapter, logical partitions on the virtual network can share access to the physical network and communicate with stand-alone servers and logical partitions on other systems. The Shared Ethernet Adapter eliminates the need for each client logical partition to a dedicated physical adapter to connect to the external network.

A Shared Ethernet Adapter provides access by connecting the internal VLANs with the VLANs on the external switches. Using this connection, logical partitions can share the IP subnet with stand-alone systems and other external logical partitions. The Shared Ethernet Adapter forwards outbound packets that are received from a virtual Ethernet adapter to the external network and forwards inbound packets to the appropriate client logical partition over the virtual Ethernet link to that logical partition. The Shared Ethernet Adapter processes packets at layer 2, so the original MAC address and VLAN tags of the packet are visible to other systems on the physical network.

The Shared Ethernet Adapter has a bandwidth apportioning feature, also known as Virtual I/O Server quality of service (QoS). QoS allows the Virtual I/O Server to give a higher priority to some types of packets. In accordance with the IEEE 801.q specification, Virtual I/O Server administrators can instruct the Shared Ethernet Adapter to inspect bridged VLAN-tagged traffic for the VLAN priority field in the VLAN header. The 3-bit VLAN priority field allows each individual packet to be prioritized with a value in the range 0 - 7 to distinguish more important traffic from less important traffic. More important traffic is sent preferentially and uses more Virtual I/O Server bandwidth than less important traffic.
Note: When you use the trunk of the Virtual Ethernet Adapter on an HMC, only traffic on VLANs with specified VLAN IDs is delivered to the Virtual I/O Server with a VLAN tag. Consequently, to use this feature, the adapter must be configured with additional VLAN IDs when the trunk of the Virtual Ethernet Adapter is configured. Untagged traffic is always treated as though it belonged to the default priority class, that is, as if it had a priority value of 0.
Depending on the VLAN priority values found in the VLAN headers, packets are prioritized as follows.
  • 1 (Least important)
  • 2
  • 0 (Default)
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7 (Most important)
The Virtual I/O Server administrator can use QoS by setting the Shared Ethernet Adapter qos_mode attribute to either strict or loose mode. The default is disabled mode. The following definitions describe these modes:
disabled mode
This is the default mode. VLAN traffic is not inspected for the priority field. An example follows:
chdev -dev <SEA device name> -attr qos_mode=disabled
strict mode
More important traffic is sent preferentially over less important traffic. This mode provides better performance and more bandwidth to more important traffic; however, it can result in substantial delays for less important traffic. An example follows:
chdev -dev <SEA device name> -attr qos_mode=strict
loose mode
A cap is placed on each priority level so that after a number of bytes is sent for each priority level, the following level is serviced. This method ensures that all packets are eventually sent. More important traffic is given less bandwidth with this mode than with strict mode; however, the caps in loose mode are such that more bytes are sent for the more important traffic, so it still gets more bandwidth than less important traffic. An example follows:
chdev -dev <SEA device name> -attr qos_mode=loose
  • In either strict or loose mode, because the Shared Ethernet Adapter uses several threads to bridge traffic, it is still possible for less important traffic from one thread to be sent before more important traffic of another thread.
  • The SR-IOV logical port that is created on VIOS as part of the dedicated virtual NIC configuration cannot be used as an SEA backing device.

For more information, see Managing virtual Network Interface Controllers.

GARP VLAN Registration Protocol

Shared Ethernet Adapters, in Virtual I/O Server Version 1.4 or later, support GARP VLAN Registration Protocol (GVRP), which is based on Generic Attribute Registration Protocol (GARP). GVRP allows for the dynamic registration of VLANs over networks, which can reduce the number of errors in the configuration of a large network. By propagating registration across the network through the transmission of Bridge Protocol Data Units (BPDUs), devices on the network have accurate knowledge of the bridged VLANs configured on the network.

When GVRP is enabled, communication travels one way, from the Shared Ethernet Adapter to the switch. The Shared Ethernet Adapter notifies the switch which VLANs can communicate with the network. The Shared Ethernet Adapter does not configure VLANs to communicate with the network based on information that is received from the switch. Rather, the configuration of VLANs that communicate with the network is statically determined by the virtual Ethernet adapter configuration settings.

Host Ethernet Adapter or Integrated Virtual Ethernet

A logical Host Ethernet Adapter (LHEA), which is sometimes referred to as Integrated Virtual Ethernet, is a physical adapter that you can use to configure virtual Ethernet. With Virtual I/O Server Version 1.4, or later, you can assign a logical host Ethernet port of an LHEA, as the real adapter of a Shared Ethernet Adapter. The logical host Ethernet port is associated with a physical port on the Host Ethernet Adapter. The Shared Ethernet Adapter uses the standard device driver interfaces provided by the Virtual I/O Server to communicate with the Host Ethernet Adapter.

To use a Shared Ethernet Adapter with a Host Ethernet Adapter, the following requirements must be met:

  • The logical host Ethernet port must be the only port that is assigned to the physical port on the Host Ethernet Adapter. No other ports of the LHEA can be assigned to the physical port on the Host Ethernet Adapter.
  • The LHEA on the Virtual I/O Server logical partition must be set to promiscuous mode. Promiscuous mode allows the LHEA (on the Virtual I/O Server) to receive all unicast, multicast, and broadcast network traffic from the physical network.


Consider using Shared Ethernet Adapters on the Virtual I/O Server in the following situations:

  • When the capacity or the bandwidth requirement of the individual logical partition is inconsistent or is less than the total bandwidth of a physical Ethernet adapter. Logical partitions that use the full bandwidth or capacity of a physical Ethernet adapter must use dedicated Ethernet adapters.
  • If you plan to migrate a client logical partition from one system to another.

Consider assigning a Shared Ethernet Adapter to a Logical Host Ethernet port when the number of Ethernet adapters that you need is more than the number of ports available on the LHEA, or you anticipate that your needs will grow beyond that number. If the number of Ethernet adapters that you need is fewer than or equal to the number of ports available on the LHEA, and you do not anticipate needing more ports in the future, you can use the ports of the LHEA for network connectivity rather than the Shared Ethernet Adapter.