What is a VLAN and how does it work? | #macos | #macsecurity

A VLAN is a logical subnetwork of devices in a broadcast domain that is partitioned by network switches and/or network management software to act as its own distinct LAN. Switches that support VLANs give network managers the ability to create flexible virtual network segments that are independent of the underlying physical wired or wireless topology.

VLANs operate at either Layer 2 (data-link layer) or Layer 3 (network layer), depending on the design of the network. Several different network protocols support VLANs, most notably Ethernet and Wi-Fi.

What are the benefits of VLANs?

VLANs deliver several benefits. The most basic advantage is that devices can be moved from one VLAN to another without network managers having to rewire the network. Another advantage is that VLANs help organizations overcome bottlenecks by reducing Layer 2 traffic. VLANs also boost security by limiting the devices that are able to access any given VLAN.

VLANs can also be used to isolate user groups. For instance, a VLAN can be created to provide guest access on a Wi-Fi network, isolating contractors and other third parties to a subnet with limited resources. Or a network manager could create a VLAN for a particular department, such as HR or finance.

The history of VLANs

Virtual local area networks (VLANs) have been around for decades, invented by W. David Sincoskie in the 1980s while at Bellcore. After the 1982 antitrust breakup of the Bell System, Bell Communications Research (now iconectiv) was established to create a new company out of the northern New Jersey Bell Labs assets. More commonly known by its nickname Bellcore, this “Baby Bell” attracted most of its early staff from the pool of former Bell Labs employees.

In 1984, Sincoskie, a former Bell Labs computer engineer, joined Bellcore to work on IP telephony. Sincoskie set up the first Ethernet LAN at Bellcore, and, trying to figure out how to break through bottlenecks to scale up capacity, Sincoskie developed the first VLANs.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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