Product Documentation

Understanding VLANs

Mar 19, 2012

A NetScaler appliance supports Layer 2 port and IEEE 802.1q tagged VLANs. VLAN configurations are useful when you need to restrict traffic to certain groups of stations. You can configure a network interface as a part of multiple VLANs by using IEEE 802.1q tagging.

You can configure VLANs and bind them to IP subnets. The NetScaler then performs IP forwarding between these VLANs (if it is configured as the default router for the hosts on these subnets).

The NetScaler supports the following types of VLANs:

Port-Based VLANs. The membership of a port-based VLAN is defined by a set of network interfaces that share a common, exclusive Layer 2 broadcast domain. You can configure multiple port-based VLANs. By default, all network interfaces on the NetScaler are members of VLAN 1.

If you apply 802.1q tagging to the port, the network interface belongs to a port-based VLAN. Layer 2 traffic is bridged within a port-based VLAN, and Layer 2 broadcasts are sent to all members of the VLAN if Layer 2 mode is enabled. When you add an untagged network interface as a member of a new VLAN, it is removed from its current VLAN.

Default VLAN. By default, the network interfaces on the NetScaler are included in a single, port-based VLAN as untagged network interfaces. This VLAN is the default VLAN. It has a VLAN ID (VID) of 1. This VLAN exists permanently. It cannot be deleted, and its VID cannot be changed.

When you add a network interface to a to a different VLAN as an untagged member, the network interface is automatically removed from the default VLAN. If you unbind a network interface from its current port-based VLAN, it is added to the default VLAN again.

Tagged VLANs. 802.1q tagging (defined in the IEEE 802.1q standard) allows a networking device (such as the NetScaler) to add information to a frame at Layer 2 to identify the VLAN membership of the frame. Tagging allows network environments to have VLANs that span multiple devices. A device that receives the packet reads the tag and recognizes the VLAN to which the frame belongs. Some network devices do not support receiving both tagged and untagged packets on the same network interface—in particular, Force10 switches. In such cases, you need to contact customer support for assistance.

The network interface can be a tagged or untagged member of a VLAN. Each network interface is an untagged member of one VLAN only (its native VLAN). This network interface transmits the frames for the native VLAN as untagged frames. A network interface can be a part of more than one VLAN if the other VLANs are tagged.

When you configure tagging, be sure to match the configuration of the VLAN on both ends of the link. The port to which the NetScaler connects must be on the same VLAN as the NetScaler network interface.

Note: This VLAN configuration is neither synchronized nor propagated, therefore you must perform the configuration on each unit in an HA pair independently.

Applying Rules to Classify Frames

VLANs have two types of rules for classifying frames:

Ingress rules. Ingress rules classify each frame as belonging only to a single VLAN. When a frame is received on a network interface, the following rules are applied to classify the frame:
  • If the frame is untagged, or has a tag value equal to 0, the VID of the frame is set to the port VID (PVID) of the receiving interface, which is classified as belonging to the native VLAN. (PVIDs are defined in the IEEE 802.1q standard.)
  • If frame has a tag value equal to FFF, the frame is dropped.
  • If the VID of the frame specifies a VLAN of which the receiving network interface is not a member, the frame is dropped. For example, if a packet is sent from a subnet associated with VLAN ID 12 to a subnet associated with VLAN ID 10, the packet is dropped. If an untagged packet with VID 9 is sent from the subnet associated with VLAN ID 10 to a network interface PVID 9, the packet is dropped.
Egress Rules. The following egress rules are applied:
  • If the VID of the frame specifies a VLAN of which the transmission network interface is not a member, the frame is discarded.
  • During the learning process (defined by the IEEE 802.1q standard), the Src MAC and VID are used to update the bridge lookup table of the NetScaler.
  • A frame is discarded if its VID specifies a VLAN that does not have any members. (You define members by binding network interfaces to a VLAN.)

VLANs and Packet Forwarding on the NetScaler

The forwarding process on the NetScaler appliance is similar to that on any standard switch. However, the NetScaler performs forwarding only when Layer 2 mode is on. The key features of the forwarding process are:
  • Topology restrictions are enforced. Enforcement involves selecting each network interface in the VLAN as a transmission port (depending on the state of the network interface), bridging restrictions (do not forward on the receiving network interface), and MTU restrictions.
  • Frames are filtered on the basis of information in the bridge table lookup in the forwarding database (FDB) table of the NetScaler. The bridge table lookup is based on the destination MAC and the VID. Packets addressed to the MAC address of the NetScaler are processed at the upper layers.
  • All broadcast and multicast frames are forwarded to each network interface that is a member of the VLAN, but forwarding occurs only if L2 mode is enabled. If L2 mode is disabled, the broadcast and multicast packets are dropped. This is also true for MAC addresses that are not currently in the bridging table.
  • A VLAN entry has a list of member network interfaces that are part of its untagged member set. When forwarding frames to these network interfaces, a tag is not inserted in the frame.
  • If the network interface is a tagged member of this VLAN, the tag is inserted in the frame when the frame is forwarded.

When a user sends any broadcast or multicast packets without the VLAN being identified, that is, during duplicate address detection (DAD) for NSIP or ND6 for the next hop of the route, the packet is sent out on all the network interfaces, with appropriate tagging based on either the Ingress and Egress rules. ND6 usually identifies a VLAN, and a data packet is sent on this VLAN only. Port-based VLANs are common to IPv4 and IPv6. For IPv6, the NetScaler supports prefix-based VLANs.