Virtual Link Trunking
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Virtual Link Trunking or VLT is a proprietary aggregation protocol developed by Force10 and available in their datacenter-class or enterprise-class network switches. VLT is implemented in the latest firmware releases (FTOS) for their high-end switches like the S4810, S6000 and Z9000 10/40 Gb datacenter switches. Although VLT is a proprietary protocol from Force10, other vendors offer similar features to allow users to set up an aggregated link towards two (logical) different switches, where a standard aggregated link can only terminate on a single logical switch (thus either a single physical switch or on different members in a stacked switch setup)
VLT is a layer-2 link aggregation protocol between end-devices (servers) connected to (different) access-switches, offering these servers a redundant, load-balancing connection to the core-network in a loop-free environment, eliminating the requirement for the use of a spanning-tree protocol. Where existing link aggregation protocols like (static) LAG (IEEE 802.3ad) or LACP (IEEE 802.1ax) require the different (physical) links to be connected to the same (logical) switch (such as stacked switches), the VLT, for example, allows link connectivity between a server and the network via two different switches.
Instead of using VLT between end-devices like servers it can also be used for uplinks between (access/distribution) switches and the core switches.
A major complication of existing link aggregation or bonding technologies is that all members interfaces of such a team/group need to terminate on one single logical switch. Beside increasing bandwidth another reason for link aggregation is redundancy. To make it possible to connect a LAG to different physical switches is to combine more than one physical switch into one logical switch using switch stacking techniques where the different physical boxes are seen as one logical switch for management and (spanning-tree) topology. The switches running in a stacked configuration always have to run the same firmware, which means that in case of a firmware upgrade the network manager has to implement the new firmware on all stack-members at the same time, resulting in an outage of the entire stack. The alternative is to have different logical switches, but then one of the used links will have to be blocked to prevent a loop-free topology (which can partially be overcome by using Multiple Spanning Tree or Cisco's proprietary per VLAN spanning tree. Spanning Tree Protocol is relatively slow in convergence, which can result in periods that traffic can't be forwarded over the network - and thus leads to outages of the applications.
VLT should address all these issues, making it possible to create a loop free redundant network topology without using the Spanning Tree Protocol. An example configuration how it works can be found on the Blog Geslinux written by Grzegorz Witkowski
- IEEE 802.1aq (Shortest Path Bridging)
- MC-LAG - multi chassis LAG
- Virtual Port Channel - the Cisco (Nexus) and Dell Networking (DNOS6.x) proprietary implementations of MC-LAG
- Datacenterknowledge.com: F10's open-cloud networking, 27 April 2011. Visited: 26 June 2012
- ITWorldcanada.com blog: F10 taking datacenters in zettabyte era, Jim Duffy, 26 April 2011. Visited: 26 June 2012
- Inter NMS website: Playing Nice with Force10, 16 May 2012. Visited: 29 July 2012
- Geslinux blog Dell Force10 S4810 Virtual Link Trunking (VLT) Sample Configuration, 28 June 2012. Visited 2 July 2013