Microsoft NLB in Unicast Mode

When running Microsoft Network Load Balancing (NLB) configured in unicast mode, the Network traffic is directed to only one of the nodes.

In unicast mode, all the NICs assigned to a Microsoft NLB cluster share a common MAC address. This requires that all the network traffic on the switches be port-flooded to all the NLB nodes. Normally, port flooding is avoided in switched environments when a switch learns the MAC addresses of the hosts sending network traffic through it.

To resolve this issue, you must configure the ESX host to not send RARP packets when any of its virtual machines is powered on.

Source : vmware – KB1556

Lets discuss about the Unicast, Multicast and Broadcast modes.


Unicast is the term used to describe communication where a piece of information is sent from one point to another point. In this case there is just one sender, and one receiver.

Unicast transmission, in which a packet is sent from a single source to a specified destination, is still the predominant form of transmission on LANs and within the Internet. All LANs (e.g. Ethernet) and IP networks support the unicast transfer mode, and most users are familiar with the standard unicast applications (e.g. http, smtp, ftp and telnet) which employ the TCP transport protocol.


Broadcast is the term used to describe communication where a piece of information is sent from one point to all other points. In this case there is just one sender, but the information is sent to all connected receivers.

Broadcast transmission is supported on most LANs (e.g. Ethernet), and may be used to send the same message to all computers on the LAN (e.g. the address resolution protocol (arp) uses this to send an address resolution query to all computers on a LAN). Network layer protocols (such as IPv4) also support a form of broadcast that allows the same packet to be sent to every system in a logical network (in IPv4 this consists of the IP network ID and an all 1’s host number).


Multicast is the term used to describe communication where a piece of information is sent from one or more points to a set of other points. In this case there is may be one or more senders, and the information is distributed to a set of receivers (theer may be no receivers, or any other number of receivers).

One example of an application which may use multicast is a video server sending out networked TV channels. Simultaneous delivery of high quality video to each of a large number of delivery platforms will exhaust the capability of even a high bandwidth network with a powerful video clip server. This poses a major salability issue for applications which required sustained high bandwidth. One way to significantly ease scaling to larger groups of clients is to employ multicast networking.

The multicast mode is useful if a group of clients require a common set of data at the same time, or when the clients are able to receive and store (cache) common data until needed. Where there is a common need for the same data required by a group of clients, multicast transmission may provide significant bandwidth savings (up to 1/N of the bandwidth compared to N separate unicast clients).

The majority of installed LANs (e.g. Ethernet) are able to support the multicast transmission mode. Shared LANs (using hubs/repeaters) inherently support multicast, since all packets reach all network interface cards connected to the LAN.

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