Virtual LAN Technology

A virtual (or logical) LAN is a local area network with a definition that maps workstations on some other basis than geographic location (for example, by department, type of user, or primary application). The virtual LAN controller can change or add workstations and manage loadbalancing and bandwidth allocation more easily than with a physical picture of the LAN. Network management software keeps track of relating the virtual picture of the local area network with the actual physical picture.

VLANs are considered likely to be used with campus environment networks. Among companies likely to provide products with VLAN support are Cisco, Bay Networks, and 3Com.

A virtual LAN, commonly known as a VLAN, is a group of hosts with a common set of requirements that communicate as if they were attached to the Broadcast domain, regardless of their physical location. A VLAN has the same attributes as a physical LAN, but it allows for end stations to be grouped together even if they are not located on the same network switch. Network reconfiguration can be done through software instead of physically relocating devices.


VLANs are created to provide the segmentation services traditionally provided by routers in LAN configurations. VLANs address issues such as scalability, security, and network management. Routers in VLAN topologies provide broadcast filtering, security, address summarization, and traffic flow management. By definition, switches may not bridge IP traffic between VLANs as it would violate the integrity of the VLAN broadcast domain.

This is also useful if one wants to create multiple Layer 3 networks on the same Layer 2 switch. For example if a DHCP server (which will broadcast its presence) were plugged into a switch it would serve anyone on that switch that was configured to do so. By using VLANs you easily split the network up so some hosts won't use that server and default to Link-local addresses.

Virtual LANs are essentially Layer 2 constructs, compared with IP subnets which are Layer 3 constructs. In a LAN employing VLANs, a one-to-one relationship often exists between VLANs and IP subnets, although it is possible to have multiple subnets on one VLAN or have one subnet spread across multiple VLANs. Virtual LANs and IP subnets provide independent Layer 2 and Layer 3 constructs that map to one another and this correspondence is useful during the network design process.

By using VLAN, one can control traffic patterns and react quickly to relocations. VLANs provide the flexibility to adapt to changes in network requirements and allow for simplified administration.