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Overview of vNetwork Distributed Switch concepts (1010555)

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There are two types of virtual switches in ESXi/ESX 4.x, ESXi 5.x, and ESXi 6.x, vNetwork Standard Switch and vNetwork Distributed Switch (vDS).

Only vSphere Enterprise Plus supports the vNetwork Distributed Switch. For more information, see VMware vSphere with Operations Management and VMware vSphere Licensing, Pricing and Packaging white paper.


vNetwork Standard Switch (vSwitch, vSS)

As in VMware Infrastructure 3, the configuration of each vSwitch resides on the specific ESXi/ESX host. The VI administrators have to manually maintain consistency of the vSwitch configuration across all ESXi/ESX hosts to ensure that they can perform operations such as vMotion.

vSwitches are configured on each ESXi/ESX host.

vNetwork Distributed Switch (dvSwitch, vDS)

The configuration of vDS is centralized to vCenter Server. The ESXi/ESX 4.x, ESXi 5.x, and ESXi 6.x hosts that belong to a dvSwitch do not need further configuration to be compliant.

Distributed switches provide similar functionality to vSwitches. dvPortgroups is a set of dvPorts. The vDS equivalent of portgroups is a set of ports in a vSwitch. Configuration is inherited from dvSwitch to dvPortgroup, just as from vSwitch to Portgroup.

Virtual machines, Service Console interfaces (vswif), and VMKernel interfaces can be connected to dvPortgroups just as they could be connected to portgroups in vSwitches.

Administrative rights are required to create these virtual adapters on each ESXi/ESX host dvSwitch in vCenter Server:
  • Service Console and VMKernel interfaces
  • Physical NICs and their assignment to dvSwitch Uplink groups
For more information on configuring a dvSwitch in vCenter 5.1 and earlier, see Configuring vNetwork Distributed Switch using vCenter Server (1010557).
For more information on configuring a dvSwitch in vCenter 5.5, see Setting Up Networking with vSphere Distributed Switches in the vSphere 5.5 Networking Guide.
For more information on configuring a dvSwitch in vCenter 6.0, see Setting Up Networking with vSphere Distributed Switches in the vSphere 6.0 Networking Guide.
For more information on configuring a dvSwitch in vCenter 6.5, see vSphere 6.5 Networking Guide.

Comparing vNetwork Standard Switch with vNetwork Distributed Switch

These features are available with both types of virtual switches:
  • Can forward L2 frames
  • Can segment traffic into VLANs
  • Can use and understand 802.1q VLAN encapsulation
  • Can have more than one uplink (NIC Teaming)
  • Can have traffic shaping for the outbound (TX) traffic
These features are available only with a Distributed Switch:
  • Can shape inbound (RX) traffic
  • Has a central unified management interface through vCenter Server
  • Supports Private VLANs (PVLANs)
  • Provides potential customization of Data and Control Planes
vSphere 5.x provides these improvements to Distributed Switch functionality:
  • Increased visibility of inter-virtual machine traffic through Netflow.
  • Improved monitoring through port mirroring (dvMirror).
  • Support for LLDP (Link Layer Discovery Protocol), a vendor-neutral protocol.
  • The enhanced link aggregation feature provides choice in hashing algorithms and also increases the limit on number of link aggregation groups.
  • Additional port security is enabled through traffic filtering support.
  • Improved single-root I/O virtualization (SR-IOV) support and 40GB NIC support.
vSphere 6.x provides these improvements to Distributed Switch functionality:
  • Network IO Control – New support for per virtual machine Distributed vSwitch bandwidth reservations to guarantee isolation and enforce limits on bandwidth.
  • Multicast Snooping - Supports IGMP snooping for IPv4 packet and MLD snooping for IPv6 packets in VDS. Improves performance and scale with multicast traffic.
  • Multiple TCP/IP Stack for vMotion - Allows vMotion traffic a dedicated networking stack. Simplifies IP address management with a dedicated default gateway for vMotion traffic.
For more information on these features, see the What's New in VMware vSphere 5.1 NetworkingWhat’s New in VMware vSphere 5.5 Platform, and What’s New in VMware vSphere 6.0? technical white papers.

Additional Information

An Enterprise Plus license is required to add a host to a vNetwork Distributed Switch (vDS).

Note: vDS now comes bundled with NSX for vSphere (NSXv) and VMware vSAN in vSphere 6.x.

For more information, see:

For translated versions of this article, see:

See Also

Update History

10/07/2013 - Added vSphere 5.5. 11/05/2015 - Added ESXi and vCenter Server 6.0 to Products.

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To request a new product feature or to provide feedback on a VMware product, please visit the Request a Product Feature page.


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  • 63 Ratings