Thursday, September 29, 2005

Link-based IPMP on Solaris 10

I have been setting up IPMP on a Solaris 10 server today and as it has been a while since I'd done this I thought I should have a look over the IPMP documentation and see what has changed.

Previously in an active-standby configuration you would use probe-based detection which required the setup of a test address for the standby interface and the failover detection would be performed by in.mpathd sending icmp traffic using the test address.

I have never liked having to assign an extra address just for the failure detection as you end up wasting a lot of addresses if you have a lot of servers with IPMP on a subnet. Also as they usually aren't put in DNS there is a risk of someone assigning a new server with the same address. The configuration for probe-based detection is pretty messy with lines like the following being inserted into the hostname files.

addif netmask + broadcast + -failover deprecated up

However if you are running Solaris 10 and you have a NIC that supports it you can use link-based IPMP. Link-based failure detection works by the NIC driver monitoring the link state and notifying the network subsystem in case of a failure.

The great thing about this is it does not need a test address and the setup of IPMP is very simple. For example if I have two interfaces (qfe0 and qfe4) that I want to operate in a active-standby configuration, all that would need to be done is create the two files below in /etc.

hostname group groupname up

group groupname up

That's it! Now you have failover for all IP addresses, including virtual, on qfe0. Also if you have zones set up with qfe0 as a physical interface the zone's IP addresses will now also failover.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"However if you are running Solaris 10 and you have a NIC that supports it you can use link-based IPMP"

The problem is that in practice, link based detection works only on SUNW NICs.

For example, I could not get IPMP to do link based failure detection and failover in my ASUS P4 server, which has onboard Broadcom GigE (bge) NICs. It simply doesn't work, in spite of the fact that the driver reports that the link is down!

The point I'm trying to make: I've got two $9 RTL8139D NICs running in my 220R. The times of expensive, built-for-SPARC-PCI adapters are going buh-bye. x86/x64 arena makes this even more obvious: most NICs in machines nowdays are going to be commodity parts. And most drivers for those NICs still don't play well enough with IPMP to support NIC based failure detection and subsequent failover.

It's still a problem didn't go away.

3:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even though this is a great feature and I am sure a lot of companies will switch to link-based IPMP, there is one small problem. In the majority of my installations we've had redundant switches and routers and, should a switch further down the line choke IPMP would never know and still continue to send data down that path.
Of course, this can be solved on the network but due to design you may not want to.

Anyway, I'm not saying link-based IPMP is in anyway unusable, just saying that it's not for everyone :)

- Lasse

2:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Nice idea and it does cut down on those ICMP requests. However, link based really does suck. We've had problems in our HP ServiceGuard environments because Link monitoring is the only option available and there have been times when the Link has been up and the connection has been dead.


1. Fibre link failed, media converter keeps the 100Base-T side up and no failover is generated.

2. Backhaul to switch fails. 50% of packets fall into abyss because host still sees a link from the switch, but switch is going nowhere. With proper probing, the link would fail and the host would only use the still-working redundant switch.

3. NIC goes faulty. It keeps link up but fails to transmit/recieve any packets. 50% of traffic goes to /dev/null.

-- Andre.

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email me Shannon -

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shanon, thanks for the information you have posted, it has been very helpful to me, Thanks again, great work.

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OpenID dfn-doe said...

Thanks for the simple example, even though this is supported the documentation from Sun doesn't seem to have caught up and only mentions this being available but does not describe the actual configuration.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just setup IPMP on two NICs and I had to use 4 IP address. I'm running Solaris 10 on a T5120 builtin NICs. I was wondering if any of you got IPMP working without implementing 4 IP address and NOT having link state NICs/drivers. Have you of you use one test IP address with two physical IP addresses assigned to the physical interface? My email address is Thanks in advanced!

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What are the performance differences between IPMP-P-AS and IPMP-P-AA?
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