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VLAN Trunking Explained

VLAN Trunking Explained

As you get deeper into networking, you’ll want to find ways to boost network metrics without spending a ton of money. Fortunately, there are a lot of techniques that can boost security and performance that don’t require you to replace or add hardware.

One of those techniques is VLAN trunking, and it can substantially improve the flow of data through your network.

What Is VLAN Trunking?

The best way to understand VLAN trunking is to break down the different aspects of the concept. Let’s start with trunking.

A trunk is a single communication channel. It allows multiple entities to communicate at each end of the channel, simultaneously. The trunk is what carries multiple signals at the same time, and by creating a trunk, you can increase the efficiency of a network.

VLANs (virtual local area network) partition networks into digitally assigned groups. These groups are entirely logical LANs that create parameters for eth real, topographical network design. Basically, you’re using software controllers to split the LAN into groups according to any logic you choose.

This segmentation can help admins better control traffic and network management. You can make the overall network more efficient by creating groups that the switches could never think up on their own. This can reduce the prevalence of inefficient routing while promoting many benefits that will be discussed in detail later.

Putting those concepts together, VLAN trunking is when you create a trunk within a VLAN. Perhaps a better way to describe it is that you can create a VLAN and then pick two physical ports within the VLAN to create a trunk. This adds the benefits of trunking to the VLAN, and because you’re doing this on a virtual network map, you have many more options in how you design your trunks.

VLAN Trunking Protocol

Any discussion of VLAN trunking should also include the protocol used to make it work. Called VLAN Trunking Protocol (VTP), this means of network communication was created by Cisco. While there are countless minute details we could discuss, the essence of VTP boils down to a simple idea: headers.

Any LAN packet has a header that helps identify or tag the data within the packet, and the network uses these tags to help make decisions about security, routing, and a whole lot more.

VTP adds bytes to the header of data sent through a VLAN trunk. This extra header data essentially flags information earmarked for the trunk. The VLAN trunk can use these tags to filter data that flows through it, enabling it to ignore noise more easily and steer resources to the traffic with the right tags.

VLAN Trunking Uses and Benefits

That covers the essentials of VLAN trunks and the associated protocol, but is it really worth all of the effort? The short answer is yes, and there are a few reasons why.

For starters, VLANs and associated trunks can help a lot with security. VLANs allow you to create logical isolation within the network. If one segment is compromised, malicious efforts cannot freely communicate with other segments in the network. This mitigates the total damage in these cases. VLAN trunking extends that isolation to the trunks, adding to the total amount of network isolation possible without sacrificing general performance.

Another reason to use VLAN trunking is that you can reduce your broadcast domains and spanning tree instances. This simplifies your network and routing through the network, which ultimately makes routing pasts more efficient. The end result is a boost in effective data transmission rates.

VLAN trunking can also help with scalability and flexibility. As you can adjust the VLANs and trunks without moving any cables or changing your hardware layout, you simply create more options in how you design and utilize your network.

How VLAN Trunking Is Deployed

Let’s wrap this up by thinking about how you could deploy a VLAN trunk.

First, you need to figure out the VLANS that make sense with your network. You can segment the network according to data types, work types, or anything else that fits your use cases. The key is that you aren’t stuck segmenting along the physical layout.

Once you map your VLANs, you can pick your trunk ports. From there, turn on the protocol for those ports, and you have successfully created your VLAN trunks.

Deployment is rather straightforward, but the benefits you get from your efforts will depend on VLAN designs. Take the time to learn and plan, and you’ll get much more out of the investment.

Additional Learning Center Resources