LAN Design : Layer 2 Access Design Recommendations

This is a little fact that had escaped me until now: For Linux-based Unified CM server platforms, the ARP cache has a hard limit of 1024 devices - talk about something that can bite you in the rear.

Proper access layer design starts with assigning a single IP subnet per virtual LAN (VLAN). Typically, a VLAN should not span multiple wiring closet switches; that is, a VLAN should have presence in one and only one access layer switch. This practice eliminates topological loops at Layer 2, thus avoiding temporary flow interruptions due to Spanning Tree convergence. However, with the introduction of standards-based IEEE 802.1w Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol (RSTP) and 802.1s Multiple Instance Spanning Tree Protocol (MISTP), Spanning Tree can converge at much higher rates. More importantly, confining a VLAN to a single access layer switch also serves to limit the size of the broadcast domain. There is the potential for large numbers of devices within a single VLAN or broadcast domain to generate large amounts of broadcast traffic periodically, which can be problematic.

A good rule of thumb is to limit the number of devices per VLAN to about 512, which is equivalent to two Class C subnets (that is, a 23-bit subnet masked Class C address). Typical access layer switches include the stackable Cisco Catalyst 2950, 3500XL, 3550, and 3750, as well as the Cisco 3560 and the larger, higher-density Catalyst 4000 and 6000 switches.

The recommendation to limit the number of devices in a single Unified Communications VLAN to approximately 512 is not solely due to the need to control the amount of VLAN broadcast traffic. For Linux-based Unified CM server platforms, the ARP cache has a hard limit of 1024 devices. Installing Unified CM in a VLAN with a IP subnet containing more than 1024 devices can cause the Unified CM server ARP cache to fill up quickly, which can seriously affect communications between the Unified CM server and other Unified Communications endpoints. Even though the ARP cache size on Windows-based Unified CM server platforms expands dynamically, Cisco strongly recommends a limit of 512 devices in any VLAN regardless of the operating system used by the Unified CM server platform.

When you deploy voice, Cisco recommends that you enable two VLANs at the access layer: a native VLAN for data traffic and a voice VLAN under Cisco IOS or Auxiliary VLAN under CatOS for voice traffic.

Separate voice and data VLANs are recommended for the following reasons:

•  Address space conservation and voice device protection from external networks

Private addressing of phones on the voice or auxiliary VLAN ensures address conservation and ensures that phones are not accessible directly through public networks. PCs and servers are typically addressed with publicly routed subnet addresses; however, voice endpoints should be addressed using RFC 1918 private subnet addresses.

•  QoS trust boundary extension to voice devices

QoS trust boundaries can be extended to voice devices without extending these trust boundaries and, in turn, QoS features to PCs and other data devices.

•  Protection from malicious network attacks

VLAN access control, 802.1Q, and 802.1p tagging can provide protection for voice devices from malicious internal and external network attacks such as worms, denial of service (DoS) attacks, and attempts by data devices to gain access to priority queues through packet tagging.

•  Ease of management and configuration

Separate VLANs for voice and data devices at the access layer provide ease of management and simplified QoS configuration.

To provide high-quality voice and to take advantage of the full voice feature set, access layer switches should provide support for:

•  802.1Q trunking and 802.1p for proper treatment of Layer 2 CoS packet marking on ports with phones connected

•  Multiple egress queues to provide priority queuing of RTP voice packet streams

•  The ability to classify or reclassify traffic and establish a network trust boundary

•  Inline power capability (Although inline power capability is not mandatory, it is highly recommended for the access layer switches.)

•  Layer 3 awareness and the ability to implement QoS access control lists (These features are required if you are using certain IP telephony endpoints, such as a PC running a softphone application, that cannot benefit from an extended trust boundary.)

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