VLANs in a Multi-Switched Environment CCNA
VLANs in a Multi-Switched Environment CCNA

VLANs in a Multi-Switched Environment

VLANs Multi-Switched Environment


This topic explain how a switch forwards frames based on VLAN configuration in a multi-switch environment. Start learning CCNA 200-301 for free!!

Note: Welcome: This topic is part of Module 3 of the Cisco CCNA 2 course, for a better follow up of the course you can go to the CCNA 2 section to guide you through an order.

Defining VLAN Trunks

VLANs would not be very useful without VLAN trunks. VLAN trunks allow all VLAN traffic to propagate between switches. This enables devices connected to different switches but in the same VLAN to communicate without going through a router.

A trunk is a point-to-point link between two network devices that carries more than one VLAN. A VLAN trunk extends VLANs across an entire network. Cisco supports IEEE 802.1Q for coordinating trunks on Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, and 10-Gigabit Ethernet interfaces.

A VLAN trunk does not belong to a specific VLAN. Instead, it is a conduit for multiple VLANs between switches and routers. A trunk could also be used between a network device and server or another device that is equipped with an appropriate 802.1Q-capable NIC. By default, on a Cisco Catalyst switch, all VLANs are supported on a trunk port.

In the figure, the highlighted links between switches S1 and S2, and S1 and S3 are configured to transmit traffic coming from VLANs 10, 20, 30, and 99 (i.e., native VLAN) across the network. This network could not function without VLAN trunks.

VLAN Trunks

Network without VLANs

When a switch receives a broadcast frame on one of its ports, it forwards the frame out all other ports except the port where the broadcast was received. In the animation, the entire network is configured in the same subnet ( and no VLANs are configured. As a result, when the faculty computer (PC1) sends out a broadcast frame, switch S2 sends that broadcast frame out all of its ports. Eventually the entire network receives the broadcast because the network is one broadcast domain.

Network without VLANs

Network with VLANs

Click Play in the animation to see that the same network has now been segmented using two VLANs. Faculty devices are assigned to VLAN 10 and student devices are assigned to VLAN 20. When a broadcast frame is sent from the faculty computer, PC1, to switch S2, the switch forwards that broadcast frame only to those switch ports configured to support VLAN 10.

Network with VLANs
Network with VLANs

The ports that comprise the connection between switches S2 and S1 (ports F0/1), and between S1 and S3 (ports F0/3) are trunks and have been configured to support all the VLANs in the network.

When S1 receives the broadcast frame on port F0/1, S1 forwards that broadcast frame out of the only other port configured to support VLAN 10, which is port F0/3. When S3 receives the broadcast frame on port F0/3, it forwards that broadcast frame out the only other port configured to support VLAN 10, which is port F0/11. The broadcast frame arrives at the only other computer in the network configured in VLAN 10, which is faculty computer PC4.

When VLANs are implemented on a switch, the transmission of unicast, multicast, and broadcast traffic from a host in a particular VLAN are restricted to the devices that are in that VLAN.

VLAN Identification with a Tag

The standard Ethernet frame header does not contain information about the VLAN to which the frame belongs. Therefore, when Ethernet frames are placed on a trunk, information about the VLANs to which they belong must be added. This process, called tagging, is accomplished by using the IEEE 802.1Q header, specified in the IEEE 802.1Q standard. The 802.1Q header includes a 4-byte tag inserted within the original Ethernet frame header, specifying the VLAN to which the frame belongs.

When the switch receives a frame on a port configured in access mode and assigned a VLAN, the switch inserts a VLAN tag in the frame header, recalculates the Frame Check Sequence (FCS), and sends the tagged frame out of a trunk port.

VLAN Tag Field Details

As shown in the figure, the VLAN tag control information field consists of a Type field, a Priority field, a Canonical Format Identifier field, and VLAN ID field:

  • Type – A 2-byte value called the tag protocol ID (TPID) value. For Ethernet, it is set to hexadecimal 0x8100.
  • User priority – A 3-bit value that supports level or service implementation.
  • Canonical Format Identifier (CFI) – A 1-bit identifier that enables Token Ring frames to be carried across Ethernet links.
  • VLAN ID (VID) – A 12-bit VLAN identification number that supports up to 4096 VLAN IDs.

After the switch inserts the tag control information fields, it recalculates the FCS values and inserts the new FCS into the frame.

VLAN Identification with a Tag
VLAN Identification with a Tag

Native VLANs and 802.1Q Tagging

The IEEE 802.1Q standard specifies a native VLAN for trunk links, which defaults to VLAN 1. When an untagged frame arrives on a trunk port it is assigned to the native VLAN. Management frames that are sent between switches is an example of traffic that is typically untagged. If the link between two switches is a trunk, the switch sends the untagged traffic on the native VLAN.

Tagged Frames on the Native VLAN

Some devices that support trunking add a VLAN tag to native VLAN traffic. Control traffic sent on the native VLAN should not be tagged. If an 802.1Q trunk port receives a tagged frame with the VLAN ID that is the same as the native VLAN, it drops the frame. Consequently, when configuring a switch port on a Cisco switch, configure devices so that they do not send tagged frames on the native VLAN. Devices from other vendors that support tagged frames on the native VLAN include IP phones, servers, routers, and non-Cisco switches.

Untagged Frames on the Native VLAN

When a Cisco switch trunk port receives untagged frames (which are unusual in a well-designed network), it forwards those frames to the native VLAN. If there are no devices associated with the native VLAN (which is not unusual) and there are no other trunk ports (which is not unusual), then the frame is dropped. The default native VLAN is VLAN 1. When configuring an 802.1Q trunk port, a default Port VLAN ID (PVID) is assigned the value of the native VLAN ID. All untagged traffic coming in or out of the 802.1Q port is forwarded based on the PVID value. For example, if VLAN 99 is configured as the native VLAN, the PVID is 99 and all untagged traffic is forwarded to VLAN 99. If the native VLAN has not been reconfigured, the PVID value is set to VLAN 1.

In the figure, PC1 is connected by a hub to an 802.1Q trunk link.

Native VLANs & 802.1Q Tagging
Native VLANs & 802.1Q Tagging

PC1 sends untagged traffic, which the switches associate with the native VLAN configured on the trunk ports, and forward accordingly. Tagged traffic on the trunk received by PC1 is dropped. This scenario reflects poor network design for several reasons: it uses a hub, it has a host connected to a trunk link, and it implies that the switches have access ports assigned to the native VLAN. It also illustrates the motivation for the IEEE 802.1Q specification for native VLANs as a means of handling legacy scenarios.

Voice VLAN Tagging

A separate voice VLAN is required to support VoIP. This enables quality of service (QoS) and security policies to be applied to voice traffic.

A Cisco IP phone connects directly to a switch port. An IP host can connect to the IP phone to gain network connectivity as well. The access port connected to the Cisco IP phone can be configured to use two separate VLANs. One VLAN is for voice traffic and the other is a data VLAN to support the host traffic. The link between the switch and the IP phone simulates a trunk link to carry both voice VLAN traffic and data VLAN traffic.

Specifically, the Cisco IP Phone contains an integrated three-port 10/100 switch. The ports provide dedicated connections to the following devices:

  • Port 1 connects to the switch or other VoIP device.
  • Port 2 is an internal 10/100 interface that carries the IP phone traffic.
  • Port 3 (access port) connects to a PC or other device.

The switch access port sends CDP packets instructing the attached IP phone to send voice traffic in one of three ways. The method used varies based on the type of traffic:

  • Voice VLAN traffic must be tagged with an appropriate Layer 2 class of service (CoS) priority value
  • Access VLAN traffic can also be tagged with a Layer 2 CoS priority value
  • Access VLAN is not tagged (no Layer 2 CoS priority value)

In the figure, the student computer PC5 is attached to a Cisco IP phone, and the phone is attached to switch S3. VLAN 150 is designed to carry voice traffic, while PC5 is in VLAN 20, which is used for student data.

Voice VLAN Tagging
Voice VLAN Tagging

Voice VLAN Verification Example

The example output for the show interface fa0/18 switchport command is shown. The highlighted areas in the sample output show the F0/18 interface configured with a VLAN that is configured for data (VLAN 20), and a VLAN configured for voice (VLAN 150).

S1# show interfaces fa0/18 switchport 
Name: Fa0/18
Switchport: Enabled
Administrative Mode: static access
Operational Mode: static access
Administrative Trunking Encapsulation: negotiate
Operational Trunking Encapsulation: native
Negotiation of Trunking: Off
Access Mode VLAN: 20 (student) 
Trunking Native Mode VLAN: 1 (default)
Administrative Native VLAN tagging: enabled
Voice VLAN: 150 (voice)

Packet Tracer – Investigate a VLAN Implementation

In this activity, you will observe how broadcast traffic is forwarded by the switches when VLANs are configured and when VLANs are not configured.

Glossary: If you have doubts about any special term, you can consult this computer network dictionary.

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