Section 2.4: VLAN Trunking Protocol (VTP)

Administration of network environments that consists of many interconnected switches is complicated. Cisco has developed a propriety solution to manage VLANs across such networks using the VLAN Trunking Protocol (VTP) to exchange VLAN configuration information between switches. VTP uses Layer 2 trunk frames to exchange VLAN information so that the VLAN configuration stays consistent throughout a network. VTP also manages the additions, deletions, and name changes of VLANs across multiple switches from a central point, minimizing misconfigurations and configuration inconsistencies that can cause problems, such as duplicate VLAN names or incorrect vLAN type settings.

VTP is organized into management domains or areas with common VLAN requirements. A switch can belong to only one VTP domain. Switches in different VTP domains do not share VTP information. Switches in a VTP domain advertise several attributes to their domain neighbors. Each advertisement contains information about the VTP management domain, VTP configuration revision number, known VLANs, and specific VLAN parameters.

The VTP process begins with VLAN creation on a switch called a VTP server. VTP floods advertisements throughout the VTP domain every 5 minutes, or whenever there is a change in VLAN configuration. The VTP advertisement includes a configuration revision number, VLAN names and numbers, and information about which switches have ports assigned to each VLAN. By configuring the details on one or more VTP server and propagating the information through advertisements, all switches know the names and numbers of all VLANs.

The VTP Configuration Revision Number

Each time a VTP server modifies its VLAN information, it increments the configuration revision number that is sent with the VTP advertisement by 1. The VTP server then sends out a VTP advertisement that includes the new configuration revision number. When a switch receives a VTP advertisement with a larger configuration revision number, it updates its VLAN configuration.

2.4.1: VTP Modes

To participate in a VTP management domain, each switch must be configured to operate in one of three modes. These modes are: server mode, client mode, and transparent mode. Server Mode

Server mode is the default mode. In this mode, VTP servers have full control over VLAN creation and modification for their domains. All VTP information is advertised to other switches in the domain, while all received VTP information is synchronized with the other switches. Because it is the default mode, server mode can be used on any switch in a management domain, even if other server and client switches are in use. This mode provides some redundancy in the event of a server failure in the domain. Client Mode

Client mode is a passive listening mode. Switches listens to VTP advertisements from other switches and modify their VLAN configurations accordingly. Thus the administrator is not allowed to create, change, or delete any VLANs. If other switches are in the management domain, a new switch should be configured for client mode operation. In this way, the switch will learn any existing VTP information from a server. If this switch will be used as a redundant server, it should start out in client mode to learn all VTP information from reliable sources. If the switch was initially configured for server mode instead, it might propagate incorrect information to the other domain switches. Once the switch has learned the current VTP information, it can be reconfigured for server mode. Transparent Mode

Transparent mode does not allow the switch to participate in VTP negotiations. Thus, a switch does not advertise its own VLAN configuration, and a switch does not synchronize its VLAN database with received advertisements. VLANs can still be created, deleted, and renamed on the transparent switch. However, they will not be advertised to other neighboring switches. VTP advertisements received by a transparent switch will be forwarded on to other switches on trunk links.

2.4.2: VTP Pruning

A switch must forward broadcast frames out all available ports in the broadcast domain because broadcasts are destined everywhere there is a listener. Multicast frames, unless forwarded by more intelligent means, follow the same pattern. In addition, frames destined for an address that the switch has not yet learned or has forgotten must be forwarded out all ports in an attempt to find the destination. When forwarding frames out all ports in a broadcast domain or VLAN, trunk ports are included. By default, a trunk link transports traffic from all VLANs, unless specific VLANs are removed from the trunk with the clear trunk command. In a network with several switches, trunk links are enabled between switches and VTP is used to manage the propagation of VLAN information. This causes the trunk links between switches to carry traffic from all VLANs.

VTP pruning makes more efficient use of trunk bandwidth by reducing unnecessary flooded traffic. Broadcast and unknown unicast frames on a VLAN are forwarded over a trunk link only if the switch on the receiving end of the trunk has ports in that VLAN. In other words, VTP pruning allows switches to prevent broadcasts and unknown unicasts from flowing to switches that do not have any ports in that VLAN. VTP pruning occurs as an extension to VTP version 1. When a Catalyst switch has a port associated with a VLAN, the switch sends an advertisement to its neighbor switches that it has active ports on that VLAN. The neighbors keep this information, enabling them to decide if flooded traffic from a VLAN should use a trunk port or not.

By default, VTP pruning is disabled on IOS-based and CLI-based switches. On IOS-based switches, the vtp pruning command in the VLAN database configuration mode, the can be used to enable pruning while the set vtp pruning enable command can be used to enabled VTP pruning on CLI-based switches.

2.4.3: VTP Configuration

Before VLANs can be configured, VTP must be configured. By default, every switch will operate in VTP server mode for the management domain NULL, with no password or secure mode. The following sections discuss the commands and considerations that should be used to configure a switch for VTP operation. Configuring a VTP Management Domain

Before a switch is added into a network, the VTP management domain should be identified. If this switch is the first one on the network, the management domain will need to be created. Otherwise, the switch may have to join an existing management domain with other existing switches.

The following command can be used to assign a switch to a management domain on an IOS-based switch:

Switch# vlan database
Switch(vlan)# vtp domain domain_name

To assign a switch to a management domain on a CLI-based switch, use the following command:

Switch(enable) set vtp [ domain domain_name ] Configuring the VTP Mode

Once you have assigned the switch to a VTP management domain, you need to select the VTP mode for the new switch. There are three VTP modes that can be selected: server mode, client mode and transparent mode. These VTP modes were discussed in Section 2.4.1.

On an IOS-based switch, the following commands can be used to configure the VTP mode:

Switch# vlan database
Switch(vlan)# vtp domain domain_name
Switch(vlan)# vtp { server | client | transparent }
Switch(vlan)# vtp password password

On a CLI-based switch, the following command can be used to configure the VTP mode:

Switch(enable) set vtp [ domain domain_name ]
[ mode{ server | client | transparent }] [ password password ]

If the domain is operating in secure mode, a password can be included in the command line. The password can have 8 to 64 characters. Configuring the VTP Version

Two versions of VTP, VTP version 1 and VTP version 2, are available for use in a management domain. Although VTP version 1 is the default protocol on a Catalyst switch, Catalyst switches are capable of running both versions; however, the two versions are not interoperable within a management domain. Thus, the same VTP version must be configured on each switch in a domain. However, a switch running VTP version 2 may coexist with other version 1 switches, if its VTP version 2 is not enabled. This situation becomes important if you want to use version 2 in a domain. Then, only one server mode switch needs to have VTP version 2 enabled. The new version number is propagated to all other version 2-capable switches in the domain, causing them to enable version 2 for use. By default, VTP version 1 is enabled. Version 2 can be enabled or disabled using the v2 option. The two versions of VTP differ in the features they support. VTP version 2 offers the following additional features over version 1:

  • In transparent mode VTP version 1 matches the VTP version and domain name before forwarding the information to other switches using VTP. On the other hand, VTP version 2 in transparent mode forwards the VTP messages without checking the version number.
  • VTP version 2 performs consistency checks on the VTP and VLAN parameters entered from the CLI or by Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). This checking helps prevent errors in such things as VLAN names and numbers from being propagated to other switches in the domain. However, no consistency checks are performed on VTP messages that are received on trunk links or on configuration and database data that is read from NVRAM.
  • VTP version 2 supports the use of Token Ring switching and Token Ring VLANs.
  • VTP version 2 has Unrecognized Type-Length-Value (TLV) support, which means that VTP version 2 switches will propagate received configuration change messages out other trunk links, even if the switch supervisor is not able to parse or understand the message.

On an IOS-based switch, the VTP version number is configured using the following commands:

Switch# vlan database
Switch(vlan)# vtp v2-mode

On a CLI-based switch, the VTP version number is configured using the following command:

Switch(enable) set vtp v2 enable