Understanding VPLS

As previously mentioned, a VPLS is a multipoint emulated LAN service provisioned over a MAN or WAN. A VPLS is an Ethernet broadcast domain, and is fully capable of forwarding Ethernet traffic based on learned MAC addresses.

Figure A-1 illustrates a VPLS. This figure illustrates a single VPLS. As you can see, Provider Edge (PE) devices PE1, PE2, and PE3 are connected via pseudowires. The PE devices are also connected to Customer Edge (CE) devices CE1, CE2, and CE3. Customer traffic flows between CE devices CE1, CE2, and CE3.

Figure A-1. A VPLS

The VPLS in Figure A-1 appears to the customer as a single broadcast domain, as shown in Figure A-2.

Figure A-2. A VPLS Is a Single-Broadcast Domain


Although a single VPLS is illustrated in Figure A-1, PE devices can support multiple separate VPLS (customer broadcast domains).

If a pair of PEs is in more than one VPLS, more than one pseudowire is required between that pair of PEs (one pseudowire per VPLS). In this case, the pseudowires can be carried over the same tunnel (either a tunnel Label Switched Path [LSP] or other tunnel type).

For more information on MPLS- and L2TPv3-based pseudowires, see Chapter 3, "Designing and Implementing AToM-Based Layer 2 VPNs (L2VPN)," and Chapter 2, "Designing and Deploying L2TPv3-Based Layer 2 VPNs (L2VPN)," respectively.

A VPLS can provide the following connectivity models:

  • Connectivity between CE routers
  • Connectivity between CE Ethernet switches

The VPLS in Figure A-1 provides connectivity between CE routers.

A VPLS provides the usual connectivity that would be expected in a LAN segment, including forwarding of unicast traffic, multicast traffic, and broadcast traffic.

Each PE device operates in a similar manner to an Ethernet switch and is capable of dynamically learning (and aging) MAC addresses and forwarding traffic based on those learned MAC addresses. Pseudowires between PE devices are treated as logical ports, and so a PE device will forward Ethernet traffic between attachment circuits (connected to CE routers/switches) and pseudowires (connected to other PE devices) in a similar manner to that which a regular Ethernet switch uses to forward traffic between ports.


Forwarding of multicast traffic can be optimized in a VPLS by utilizing mechanisms such as Internet Group Multicast Protocol (IGMP) and Protocol Independent Multicast (PIM) snooping on PE devices.


Ensuring a Loop-Free Topology in a VPLS

The PEs in a VPLS can have a full mesh of pseudowires between themselves (see Figure A-1). As previously mentioned, these pseudowires function as logical ports as far as the learning of MAC addresses and forwarding of Ethernet traffic is concerned.

If a full mesh of pseudowires is maintained between PEs, the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) is not required on the PEs. In this case, the PEs perform split-horizon forwardingEthernet traffic received on one pseudowire from one PE is not forwarded on another pseudowire to another PE.

Figure A-3 illustrates split-horizon forwarding in a VPLS.

Figure A-3. Split-Horizon Forwarding in a VPLS

As you can see in Figure A-3, Ethernet traffic received by PE1 from PE2 is not then sent over the pseudowire to PE3.

Customers may still run STP to prevent loops if they maintain "backdoor" connections (connections not via the VPLS) between sites. In this case, Bridge Protocol Data Units (BPDU) are tunneled over the service provider network without being examined (and acted upon) by PE devices.

Figure A-4 illustrates a backdoor connection between customer sites and the corresponding STP configuration.

Figure A-4. Backdoor Connection and Corresponding STP Configuration


Frame Forwarding over a VPLS

Ethernet frames are sent over pseudowires between PEs in a VPLS as described in Chapter 3.

Although Figure A-1 shows CE devices connected to dedicated ports on PE devices, it is possible that more than one CE device (different customers) might be connected to a single physical port on a PE device. In this case, an identifier such as a VLAN tag may be used to separate traffic for different customer VPLSs on that port.

When a PE receives an Ethernet frame from a customer, any identifiers on Ethernet frames (such as a VLAN tag) used to identify a particular VPLS are removed before the frame is forwarded over a pseudowire to another PE. The egress PE may prepend an identifier back onto the frame before forwarding the frame.

If a PE receives an Ethernet frame from a customer with an identifier that does not identify a VPLS (for example, when VLAN tagging is used by a customer, and this tagging is not used by the PE device to distinguish between VPLSs), this identifier is not removed before the frame is forwarded over a pseudowire to another PE.

VPLS MAC Address Learning

MAC addresses are learned and associated with customer-connected ports and PE-connected pseudowires. Mappings of customer MAC addresses to pseudowires are stored within a Forwarding Information Base (FIB) on PEs. Mappings for different VPLSs are stored in separate FIBs.

There are two methods of MAC address learning used in a VPLS:

  • Unqualified learning
  • Qualified learning

When using unqualified learning, a single VPLS handles all the VLANs belonging to a customer. In this case, there must be no overlap between MAC addresses among customer VLANs (there is a single MAC address space). If an overlap occurs, traffic might be forwarded incorrectly.

Unqualified learning can be used when connectivity to a customer is on a nonmultiplexed port (there is only one customer per physical port), and the customer might be forwarding traffic for multiple VLANs on the physical port.

When using qualified learning, each customer VLAN is mapped to a separate VPLS and therefore is mapped to its own broadcast domain and MAC address space. If an overlap occurs between MAC addresses in different VLANs when using qualified learning, it will not affect traffic forwarding because each VPLS (and VLAN) has its own FIB.

Hierarchical VPLS (H-VPLS) Deployments

As previously discussed in this appendix, a full mesh of pseudowires can be provisioned between PEs in a VPLS. This means that the total number of pseudowires required per VPLS is n(n - 1)/2 (where n is the number of PE devices). The amount of signaling required to set up and maintain this number of pseudowires, as well as the amount of packet replication required, may impact the scalability of a VPLS deployment (as the number of PE devices and pseudowires grows).

To improve the scalability of VPLS deployments, a hierarchical architecture may be used (see Figure A-5). In Figure A-5, an additional level of hierarchy has been added to the basic VPLS architecture (compare to Figure A-1). The functionality of the PE device can now be divided between Network-facing PEs (N-PEs/PE-rs [routing- and bridging-capable PEs]) and User (customer)-facing PEs (U-PEs) or MTU-s (multitenant unit bridging-capable devices).

Figure A-5. Hierarchical VPLS Architecture

In a hierarchical VPLS architecture, a full mesh of pseudowires can be maintained between N-PEs/PE-rs, and connectivity between U-PEs/MTU-s is provided via either pseudowires or Q-in-Q (802.1Q in 802.1Q) encapsulation. Pseudowires between PE-rs and MTU-s terminate in virtual switch instances (VSI; called virtual forwarding instances [VFI] in Cisco terminology).

Part I: Understanding VPN Technology

What Is a Virtual Private Network?

Part II: Site-to-Site VPNs

Designing and Deploying L2TPv3-Based Layer 2 VPNs

Designing and Implementing AToM-Based Layer 2 VPNs

Designing MPLS Layer 3 Site-to-Site VPNs

Advanced MPLS Layer 3 VPN Deployment Considerations

Deploying Site-to-Site IPsec VPNs

Scaling and Optimizing IPsec VPNs

Part III: Remote Access VPNs

Designing and Implementing L2TPv2 and L2TPv3 Remote Access VPNs

Designing and Deploying IPsec Remote Access and Teleworker VPNs

Designing and Building SSL Remote Access VPNs (WebVPN)

Part IV: Appendixes

Designing and Building SSL Remote Access VPNs (WebVPN)

Appendix B. Answers to Review Questions

Comparing, Designing, and Deploying VPHs
Comparing, Designing, and Deploying VPNs
ISBN: 1587051796
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2007
Pages: 124
Authors: Mark Lewis

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