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Professional lab configurations for engineers

VLAN Trunk Protocol (VTP)


VLAN Trunk Protocol (VTP) reduces administration in a switched network. When you configure a new VLAN on one VTP server, the VLAN is distributed through all switches in the domain. This reduces the need to configure the same VLAN everywhere. VTP is a Cisco-proprietary protocol that is available on most of the Cisco Catalyst series products.

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VTP Modes

You can configure a switch to operate in any one of these VTP modes:

  • Server—In VTP server mode, you can create, modify, and delete VLANs and specify other configuration parameters, such as VTP version and VTP pruning, for the entire VTP domain. VTP servers advertise their VLAN configuration to other switches in the same VTP domain and synchronize their VLAN configuration with other switches based on advertisements received over trunk links. VTP server is the default mode.
  • Client—VTP clients behave the same way as VTP servers, but you cannot create, change, or delete VLANs on a VTP client.
  • Transparent—VTP transparent switches do not participate in VTP. A VTP transparent switch does not advertise its VLAN configuration and does not synchronize its VLAN configuration based on received advertisements, but transparent switches do forward VTP advertisements that they receive out their trunk ports in VTP Version 2.
  • Off (configurable only in CatOS switches)—In the three described modes, VTP advertisements are received and transmitted as soon as the switch enters the management domain state. In the VTP off mode, switches behave the same as in VTP transparent mode with the exception that VTP advertisements are not forwarded.

VTP Messages in Detail

VTP packets are sent in either Inter-Switch Link (ISL) frames or in IEEE 802.1Q (dot1q) frames. These packets are sent to the destination MAC address 01-00-0C-CC-CC-CC with a logical link control (LLC) code of Subnetwork Access Protocol (SNAP) (AAAA) and a type of 2003 (in the SNAP header). This is the format of a VTP packet that is encapsulated in ISL frames:


Of course, you can have a VTP packet inside 802.1Q frames. In that case, the ISL header and cyclic redundancy check (CRC) is replaced by dot1q tagging.

Now consider the detail of a VTP packet. The format of the VTP header can vary, based on the type of VTP message. But, all VTP packets contain these fields in the header:

  • VTP protocol version: 1, 2, or 3
  • VTP message types:
    • Summary advertisements
    • Subset advertisement
    • Advertisement requests
    • VTP join messages
  • Management domain length
  • Management domain name

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VTP Password

If you configure a password for VTP, you must configure the password on all switches in the VTP domain. The password must be the same password on all those switches. The VTP password that you configure is translated by algorithm into a 16-byte word (MD5 value) that is carried in all summary-advertisement VTP packets.

VTP Pruning

VTP ensures that all switches in the VTP domain are aware of all VLANs. However, there are occasions when VTP can create unnecessary traffic. All unknown unicasts and broadcasts in a VLAN are flooded over the entire VLAN. All switches in the network receive all broadcasts, even in situations in which few users are connected in that VLAN. VTP pruning is a feature that you use in order to eliminate or prune this unnecessary traffic.

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