VLANs on Linux

An introduction to VLANs and VLAN trunking, how Linux interacts with VLANs and how you might use them in networks.
Linux and VLANs

Linux has long been able to connect to VLAN trunks with a kernel patch, and the functionality was integrated into the mainstream kernel in 2.4.14. Kernel 2.6 also supports VLAN trunking.

In order to use 802.1q trunking, simply set the CONFIG_VLAN_8021Q option when configuring your kernel. Depending on what Ethernet card you have, you may need to patch the driver to make VLANs work correctly. This process is discussed in greater detail later in the article.

MTU Issues

As mentioned earlier, 802.1q works by tagging each frame with a 4-byte VLAN identifier. However, some Ethernet drivers assume the maximum frame size is 1,500 bytes. The addition of the 4-byte tag does not leave as much room for data. Thus, although small packets are sent and received correctly, large packets fail. The solution is either to drop the MTU of the VLAN device or to correct the assumptions of the driver.

Patches are available on the Linux VLAN Web site for a variety of cards (see Resources). Several drivers work correctly out of the box (or tar.gz, as the case may be), including the e100 driver for Intel-based cards.

Linux Configuration

Configuring VLANs under Linux is a process similar to configuring regular Ethernet interfaces. The main difference is you first must attach each VLAN to a physical device. This is accomplished with the vconfig utility. If the trunk device itself is configured, it is treated as native. For example, these commands define VLANs 2-4 on device eth0:

vconfig add eth0 2
vconfig add eth0 3
vconfig add eth0 4

The vconfig program can set a variety of other options, including device-naming conventions. Hereafter, these are assumed to be at their defaults.

Once the virtual interfaces are defined, they can be used in the same way as other interfaces. The standard utilities, such as ifconfig and route, all accept VLAN interfaces and behave as expected. For example, all VLAN interfaces can be listed with ifconfig -a.

Depending on your distribution, support may be available for automatically configuring VLANs on startup. Debian 3.0 or greater supports this support, but Red Hat and Fedora currently do not. For other distributions, you simply need to write a script that executes vconfig prior to the main network startup scripts.

Switch Configuration

Because the configuration interfaces for different brands of switches all are different, the focus of this section is the common Cisco 2924. All switch configurations are from this model but should work with little change on other IOS-based switches. A variety of configuration commands are related to trunking, but only the most basic are covered here. The samples also assume the ports all have a default configuration. Specifically, this means all ports are configured as access ports in VLAN 1.

This article focuses on the Linux side of the configuration, so only a basic explanation of the switch commands are given. Listing 1 is a configuration fragment that could be entered into a Cisco Catalyst 2924 switch. See Resources for URLs to complete documentation of these commands.

Listing 1. Configuring a Cisco Catalyst 2924 Switch

interface FastEthernet 0/1
  switchport mode trunk
  switchport trunk encapsulation dot1q
  switchport trunk native vlan 1
interface FastEthernet 0/2
  switchport access vlan 2

The commands here are fairly self explanatory if you are familiar with the VLAN terminology presented earlier. Briefly, the first section converts the first port into a trunk running 802.1q encapsulation with native VLAN 1. The second section simply moves port 2 into VLAN 2.

It is important to see how VLANs are configured and operating on the switch. The first task is to see the status of a particular port. This can be done with show interfaces <interface> switchport command.

Listing 2. show interfaces <interface> switchport

#show interfaces FastEthernet 0/1 switchport
Name: Fa0/1
Switchport: Enabled
Administrative mode: trunk
Operational Mode: trunk
Administrative Trunking Encapsulation: dot1q
Operational Trunking Encapsulation: dot1q
Negotiation of Trunking: Disabled
Access Mode VLAN: 0 ((Inactive))
Trunking Native Mode VLAN: 1 (VLAN0001)
Trunking VLANs Enabled: ALL
Trunking VLANs Active: 1-5
Pruning VLANs Enabled: 6-1001

Probably the most useful command is the show vlan command. It shows you a table indicating which ports are in which VLANs.



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it is just noteworthy that

Anonymous's picture

it is just noteworthy that it is possible that a misconfiguration or a bug could cause the VLAN barriers to be broken. the des moines self storage should have some space at all times.


Anonymous's picture



Anonymous's picture

Can't we have some way to read an article in single page....

how to setup and configure vlan(what are minimal requirements)

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for sharing about vlan. I have been trying to configure VLANs on my pc(linux),but i am not able to do that.

First thing i want to know is, how to configure the vlan on the pc alone(not on switch).My linux pc works with kernel built-in 802.1q driver and rtl8139 nic card. Does the nic driver(8139too) should also support the vlan ?

second, after configuring(two vlans eth0.2,eth0.3) how to send packets specifically via eth0.2 alone, and the same with receiving side.


how to get VLAN name

sunil's picture

This article is very helpful.
I am already using VLAN configuration for my requirement and below are my querries.

I am creating one VLAN for eth0 as below
vconfig add eth0 x(some vlan id)
i am maintaining LAN and VLAN with same IP.

ifconfig eth0.x netmask broadcast up
ifconfig eth0 netmask 0 broadcast 0 up

Now i have to use LAN name and get the VLAN name.
I have to write an API like, pass LAN name and get correspondiong VLAN.
Please share ur ideas.

Vlans on Catalysts

Anonymous's picture

Hi guys...
I just have a quick question to ask and i d appreciate if u answer me on my mail
Well,me and my class we ve been working on Vlans, on Switches, Catalysts 2900
the thing is when I configure Vlan from Vlan database, and go to the interface I press the commnada MAnagement, cause other wise with Show vlan command it will show that vlan in the table, but when I do show ip int vlan (name) it sais that the protocol down. And our teacher said that with Management command can make that Vlan operational.
The thing is, that when I configure more that 1 vlan in the switches it can be up and operational only 1 vlan, only the one i press the command Management into the interface.
Without that command the vlans don't work...and with that command only 1 can be operational.
Well if u can help me i ll appreciate...

thank u for ur time...

vLANs on Linux

Dardo's picture

Hi all,

I have been trying to configure vLANs on my Linux, but I couldn't. This is what I did:

PC 1
ifconfig eth1 up
vconfig add eth1 2
vconfig add eth1 3
ifconfig eth1.2 netmask up
ifconfig eth1.3 netmask up

Then, I connect this eth1 to another interface on another machine (eth1 on

PC 2

ifconfig eth1

What I want to do with this configuration is that every frame sent to eth1.2 is tagged with VID = 2 and eth1.3 with VID = 3.

But with Ethereal running on PC 2. I have not seen anything. Besides I have seen frames sent by eth1.2 and eth1.3 with Ethereal in PC 1, but these frames are not tagged.

Can anyone tell me if I am missing something?


a non subjected comment

DOMIN's picture

I was looking for something useful about vlans,
a few days ago, I was heared something about vlan and I just had to inject this to my local lan network,
article is very useful and so much helpfull (at least for me)
after all I bought my cisco catalyst 2900xl and wanted to configure it with vlans but actually don't know what,

thanks in advance for autor of this article, and maybe I will see something about vlans, so if someone has some info about vlan, plese mail it to me


802.1q trunking vs. sub-IPs

Jack's picture

What is the advantage and disadvantage by doing VLAN trunking on a single physical NIC vs. assigning sub-IPs to the NIC? I was wondering if we really gain the security & traffic segmentation features of a real VLAN. If we simulate VLAN trunking by sharing a physical NIC, on what level does the OS actually separate the traffic? Or, they are still mixed and make it as if they were VLANs?

>What is the advantage and

Marco Vega's picture

>What is the advantage and disadvantage by doing VLAN trunking on a >single physical NIC vs. assigning sub-IPs to the NIC?

if you assign several sub-IPs to the NIC connected on a "non 802.11q" switch than all switch's ports are the same and there is only one broadcast domain.

great article

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for this :)

figures in this article

Anonymous's picture

I cannot view the figures in this article,it would be useful to view them.Has anyone got them

This article exactly hit the

Anonymous's picture

This article exactly hit the nail on the head! I was to able create a "layer 3 switch" with an unused PC running Linux and an old 3Com superstack 3300 switch for our test lab. Suprisingly fast, it's clearly faster than what I suspected (although certainly not as fast a real L3 switch)

Thanks a million! It really got me going!

vlan switch connect to linux gateway

Anonymous's picture


I did configure the switch to use vlan's and I did connect that switch to linux gateway machine.

must I configure vlan under the linux machine also OR just on the switch ?

pleas replay i need help


Re: VLANs on Linux - basic switch vlan aware

Anonymous's picture

this is an item I just ordered for a client:

* 16 x 10/100Mbps Auto-negotiation, Auto-MDI/MDIX TP ports
* Supports QoS function based on IEEE 802.1p/802.1q port priority, VLAN tag priority and TCP/IP header

Re: VLANs on Linux

Anonymous's picture

How to organize domain server by help of Linux Vlan router.
For instance I have VLAN: 2,3,4,5 and I want the traffic from them to be routed in vlan 10 (server's VLAN) but 2,3,4,5 must don't touch. Help!

Re: VLANs on Linux and Trunk

drp666c's picture

Since a switch can have trunk ports that sees traffic from all VLANs is it possible to configure the interface in Linux to see traffic from all VLANs .. kinda like a trunk interface?


Re: VLANs on Linux and Trunk

BK's picture

Yes It is possible. you will need to enable in the 802.1Q option in the kernel, recompile, and install the vlan package to get the vconfig utility which enables you to add vlan interfaces.

VLANs on linux

anwar's picture

Yes,I enabled in the 802.1Q option in the kernel, recompiled, and installed the vlan package to get the vconfig utility which enables to add vlan interfaces.

I have one question ,
can I get vlan id through snmp commands ?
If yes,what are neccessary to be installed .
And what is the command.

Pls mail me the solution

With Rgds

VLANs on Linux

Anonymous's picture

Having no previous knowledge about vlans or switch configuration and being suddenly tasked with setting up multiple vlans on a switch configured from a single ethernet connection on a debian system, I found this article invaluable. Thanks.

Re: VLANs on Linux

Anonymous's picture

If we create VLAN interface
vconfig add eth1 2
and not give it IP address, is it possible to create script which would manage network traffic for VLAN2.
For example, would this command work:
iptables -A FORWARD -i vlan2 -j DROP


Did you manage to use the

Anonymous's picture

Did you manage to use the vlan without configuring them. I've encountered a similar problem. In earlier sysconfig, simply creating vlans using 'vconfig add would've configured it as well, inheriting the values from physical interface. It also used to show up using 'ifconfig'

But now vconfig moving into vlan package, this is no more true. Now one has to configure it seperately in order to see it using 'ifconfig', otherwise it'll not show up in 'ifconfig', though 'ifconfig -a' will show it.

Any pointers on this would be a great help.

Outstanding issues with VLANs on Linux

Anonymous's picture

Linux does not support VLANs over anything but physical ethernet cards. No aggregate links or the bridge device, either of which would be a huge win for building fault tolerant routers.

Hardware VLAN tagging / untagging was not supported last time I checked (huge difference on GbE or 10GbE)

iptables hasn't figured out quite how to deal with VLANs (although last I heard there was a module in the works)

Outstanding issues with VLANs on Linux

Anonymous's picture

What about GVRP? Does the linux vlan implementation include support for GVRP?

Re: Outstanding issues with VLANs on Linux

Anonymous's picture

use cisco

Re: VLANs on Linux - Still Cloudy

Anonymous's picture

Still a little cloudy if this is necessary all the time when using all Linux workstations on a network. For instance, you have two switches linked together to share various VLANS (i.e. VLAN 1 and VLAN 2 have ports on both switches) and you have 2 physical LANs with different network addresses. Physical LAN 1 is part of VLAN 1 and physical LAN 2 is part of VLAN 2. Both physical lans are connected to a router (Linux box with 2 Ethernet cards) via the switches. With this setup isn't all this transparent to the the Linux workstations? If you want to talk to the other VLAN or physical network it would go to the router. In this scenario you would not need to do all the configuration mentioned in the article? The reason I ask is that we need to mix and match fiber and copper. The above scenario would enable us share the switches between the physical LANs. We would not be required to use two switches for each LAN (one copper one fiber). Also, it would still maintain separate broadcast domains for the physical LANs. Am I way off base?

Re: VLANs on Linux

Anonymous's picture

I had 3c905C card on my RH9 Linux box. I made 2 VLAN and http traffic stopped. Before this everything worked fine. I tried to change cards and so on. I fixed it only when removed the 3c905 card and installed DFE-538TX card. It seemed 3c905 driver has some bugs. I guess it is a bug of assigning or management MTU.

Red Hat/Fedora VLAN support

Anonymous's picture

The article states that Red Hat/Fedora does not support VLAN setup on
boot. This is incorrect.

VLAN support has been in Red Hat Linux since version 9 and is included
in Fedora.

Documentation on configuring is available in the file sysconfig.txt which
is included in the initscripts RPM (ie less `rpm -ql initscripts|grep sysconfig.txt` )

Re: Red Hat/Fedora VLAN support

Anonymous's picture

Thank you for noticing this. I had looked for RedHat support but hadn't found it until you pointed it out.

For those of you using RedHat or Fedora, I'm including the configuration for the VLAN2 interface in the example. This would be place in the /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth1.2 file.

DEVICE=eth1.2 # eth1 is the interface and .2 is the VLAN id

The RedHat scripts always configure VLAN interfaces using the device and the VLAN ID without padding, which differs from the article. The interface created above would be eth1.2 rather than vlan2.

Paul Frieden

Re: Red Hat/Fedora VLAN support

Anonymous's picture

actually, on fedora/RHEL3/RH9 , add to /etc/sysconfig/network

having the ETH driver patched to support 1504 mtu's the normal eth's had to have their mtu capped to 1500... to do that, add to the /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-ethX MTU=1500 and to the ifcfg-ethX.X MTU=1504

my to cents

Re: Red Hat/Fedora VLAN support

Anonymous's picture

does this also work in fedora core 2?


Article lacks important details

Anonymous's picture

Namely, details of using iptables with the defined vlan interfaces. Can you treat them as physical interfaces with iptables? Does each vlan have an INPUT chain? Etc..

- cameron

Re: Article lacks important details

Anonymous's picture

VLAN interfaces behave exactly as normal physical interfaces do in iptables. You can specify them for rules as incoming (-i) and outgoing (-o) interfaces.

I haven't had any issues with VLAN interfaces behaving differently than normal interfaces do any any of my deployments. I do know that in the past there were some issues with DHCP, but I have never had any problems with it myself.

Paul Frieden

Several things to note.

Anonymous's picture

The linux kernel, at least, can handle VLANs on 10bt interfaces,
though it is likely you would have MTU issues on really ancient NICs.

Very cheap un-managed switches can also pass VLANs, though
you will not necessarily get the benefits of broadcast domain
restriction. For just playing with the technology, however, it is fine.

Some known good drivers include tg3, e100, e1000
At one time, the rtl8139 also worked out of the box but I haven't
tested it lately.

There are patches to various drivers found on this page:

Ben Greear

Re: VLANs on Linux

Anonymous's picture

Excellent article!

I appreciate the info on how to configure the switch to properly trunk to the Linux box as well as the clear introduction and examples.

I may pull that old 2900 out of the closet and actually play with this.

Re: VLANs on Linux

Anonymous's picture

I'm terribly sorry but this was a crappy article. Understanding how to configure interfaces is done in two seconds. The MTU issues are a big problem that you wrestle with for much longer. Until recently (or does it still apply?) you had to patch your ethernet interface drivers manually in the kernel to adjust the maximum MTU size.

Also you have to adjust your ruleset to accompany the larger packets. Then some drivers are buggy and will crash when you increase MTU above the standard 1500 (not to speak of crappy taiwanese d-link switches that lock up from time to time).

All this is skimmed through with one sentence that it "could be issues". You might say that, yes.

Re: VLANs on Linux

Anonymous's picture

I disagree with your criticism of the article. He did adequately address tne issue of limited/buggy Linux ethernet drivers (though a link to a more indepth resource, perhaps a Wiki page where various kernel hackers list links to their patches, would be nice).

Noting that some cheap ethernet equipment might also choke when connected to a trunk line would be nice, but is also above and beyind the call of this article.

As for how trivial the interfaces are to set up, configure and use --- that's the core of the article. I teach professional sysadmin courses, and compile kernels for breakfast (well, usually I start them before I go to bed, actually).

I've been seeing the VLAN 802.1q patch available for years and was vaguely familiar with VLANs from working alongside Cisco networks on numerous occasions. However, I'd never used the VLAN features, didn't know about the 'vconfig' command, wouldn't have known that the vlan* interfaces needed to be bound to their physical interfaces with it, and generally would have had to hunt around a bit to find that info.

This article introduced the concept well, and gave me enough info that I could fire up an old Cisco 2900 switch I have laying around and play with the functionality with no fuss. (Well, no fussing on the Linux side; I have no idea what state that 2900 is in and how I would fix it up; it's on permanent loan from a friend).

It's one of the best articles I've seen recently. I like the fact that he covers the basics of using Cisco IOS or is it CatOS for the other side of this effort; stressing how the switch must talk to the Linux box in trunk mode, and giving examples of setting up the other ports as well.

Re: VLANs on Linux

Anonymous's picture

I abolutely agree with the reply to the original post. This was not intended to be an in depth article on vlans but introductory one to help a user new to vlans quickly set up to use them. I found it helpful in answering some questions I had since this just came up at work eg. can I trunk a linux box to a Cisco 3550 or do I need to buy another switch.

All in all a great starter article for anyone interested in getting started using vlans. BTW he does throw in some caveats regarding NIC drivers and MTU.

Thanks for the article!

Re: VLANs on Linux

Anonymous's picture

I understand the benefits of VLANS, but I'm not quite sure what the purpose of configuring VLANS at the OS level is. Could you explain the purpose or benefit of configuring VLANS on Linux? Why would you need to do it you already configured VLANS in your switch.


Re: VLANs on Linux

Anonymous's picture

Need some more detail information, etc router, iptable.

Re: VLANs on Linux

Anonymous's picture

We use it for management. The public addresses of our servers only do serving, there is no management (ssh fx) on these addresses. Instead we use a separate LAN for management access. We could put a separate nic in each server, but it is much easier to just add a VLAN on eth0.

Our management VLAN is tagged throughout the network, so for me to get access to it, my workstation needs to support VLAN's too. My eth0 is configured like any other user's, but then I also have an eth0.2 configured, which happens to be our management VLAN.

The switch is configured to allow VLAN 2 only on the switch port where I sit, not on everybody else's. So normal users simply can't have access to VLAN 2. So there is no way they can even connect to an open port 22.

BTW we use Extreme Summit200 switches, and I like their syntax:
create vlan users
config users tag 10
config users ipaddress
config users add ports 1-24

create vlan management
config management tag 2
config management ipaddress
config management add ports 18 tagged


Re: VLANs on Linux

Anonymous's picture

If you want to have a big NFS server directly on two or more subnet (without routing traffic trough the FW)

Re: VLANs on Linux

Anonymous's picture

You'd do it when you want your Linux box on the trunk line to be a router from one VLAN to another, and perhaps even to run a Snort or Prelude IDS or other NIDS (network intrusion detection system) on on one or more of the VLANs.

I personally prefer separated switches or hub when I can --- especially for the DMZ and server room segments. However, VLANs become important at a certain scale (as do manageable, SNMP switches).

Re: VLANs on Linux

Anonymous's picture

To route packets between vlans (applying firewall rules in the process). Using virtual interfaces instead of physcial is (obviously) a lot cheaper, provided that your switch is intelligent enough.

Re: Vlan configuration

Anonymous's picture

I have a Linux box and am planning to configure a VLAN .. Please tell me how to configure a VLAN in that linux box