HomeStudy GuidesVCP-DCV for vSphere 7.xvSphere 7 - Identify vSphere distributed and standard switch capabilities

vSphere 7 - Identify vSphere distributed and standard switch capabilities

VMware vSphere 7.x Study Guide for VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization certification. This article covers Section 1: Architectures and Technologies. Objective 1.7 – Identify vSphere distributed switch and vSphere standard switch capabilities 

This article is part of the VMware vSphere 7.x - VCP-DCV Study Guide. Check out this page first for an introduction, disclaimer, and updates on the guide. The page also includes a collection of articles matching each objective of the official VCP-DCV.

Identify vSphere distributed and standard switch capabilities 

In VMware vSphere, a switch is a virtual networking device that allows you to connect virtual machines to each other, and to physical network adapters on the host. There are two types of switches in vSphere: standard switches and distributed switches. Standard switches are limited to a single host, while distributed switches can be used by multiple hosts. In this objective, we'll identify the capabilities of standard and distributed switches.

  • vSphere standard switches handle network traffic at the host level in a vSphere deployment.
  • With vSphere distributed switches you can set up and configure networking in a vSphere environment.

1. vSphere Standard Switch (vSS)

1.1. Standard Switch Overview

  • To provide network connectivity to hosts and virtual machines, you connect the physical NICs of the hosts to uplink ports on the standard switch. 
  • Virtual machines have network adapters (vNICs) that you connect to port groups on the standard switch. 
  • Every port group can use one or more physical NICs to handle their network traffic. 
  • If a port group does not have a physical NIC connected to it, virtual machines on the same port group can only communicate with each other but not with the external network.
vSphere Standard Switch architecture
Source: VMware

A vSphere Standard Switch is very similar to a physical Ethernet switch. Virtual machine network adapters and physical NICs on the host use the logical ports on the switch as each adapter uses one port. Each logical port on the standard switch is a member of a single port group. 

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1.2. Standard Port Groups

  • Each port group on a standard switch is identified by a network label, which must be unique to the current host. 
  • You can use network labels to make the networking configuration of virtual machines portable across hosts. 
  • You should give the same label to the port groups in a data center that use physical NICs connected to one broadcast domain on the physical network. 
  • Conversely, if two port groups are connected to physical NICs on different broadcast domains, the port groups should have distinct labels.
  • A VLAN ID, which restricts port group traffic to a logical Ethernet segment within the physical network, is optional.
  •  For port groups to receive the traffic that the same host sees, but from more than one VLAN, the VLAN ID must be set to VGT (VLAN 4095).

1.3. Number of Standard Ports

  • To ensure efficient use of host resources on ESXi hosts, the number of ports of standard switches are dynamically scaled up and down. 
  • A standard switch on such a host can expand up to the maximum number of ports supported on the host.

2. vSphere Distributed Switch (vDS)

A vSphere Distributed Switch provides centralized management and monitoring of the networking configuration of all hosts that are associated with the switch. You set up a distributed switch on a vCenter Server system, and its settings are propagated to all hosts that are associated with the switch.

vSphere Distributed Switch Architecture
Source: VMware

2.1. Distributed Switch Overview

  • A network switch in vSphere consists of two logical sections that are the data plane and the management plane. 
  • The data plane implements the packet switching, filtering, tagging, and so on. 
  • The management plane is the control structure that you use to configure the data plane functionality. 
  • A vSphere Standard Switch contains both data and management planes, and you configure and maintain each standard switch individually.
  • A vSphere Distributed Switch separates the data plane and the management plane.
  • The vSphere Distributed Switch introduces two abstractions that you use to create consistent networking configuration for physical NICs, virtual machines, and VMkernel services.
  • An uplink port group or dvuplink port group is defined during the creation of the distributed switch and can have one or more uplinks. 
  • An uplink is a template that you use to configure physical connections of hosts as well as failover and load balancing policies. 
  • You map physical NICs of hosts to uplinks on the distributed switch. 
  • At the host level, each physical NIC is connected to an uplink port with a particular ID. 
  • You set failover and load balancing policies over uplinks and the policies are automatically propagated to the host proxy switches, or the data plane.

2.3. Distributed port group

  • Distributed port groups provide network connectivity to virtual machines and accommodate VMkernel traffic. 
  • You identify each distributed port group by using a network label, which must be unique to the current data center. 
  • You configure NIC teaming, failover, load balancing, VLAN, security, traffic shaping , and other policies on distributed port groups. 
  • The virtual ports that are connected to a distributed port group share the same properties that are configured to the distributed port group. 
  • As with uplink port groups, the configuration that you set on distributed port groups on vCenter Server (the management plane) is automatically propagated to all hosts on the distributed switch through their host proxy switches (the data plane). 
  • In this way you can configure a group of virtual machines to share the same networking configuration by associating the virtual machines to the same distributed port group.

3. vSphere Standard Switch vs Distributed Switch

3.1. Overview

Standard Switch

  • vSphere standard switch is host-based. It handles network traffic at the host level in a vSphere deployment.
  • vSphere standard switch comes with ESXi installed by default.
  • It is a physical network switch that is used to connect virtual machines to the physical network. 
  • A vSphere standard switch provides basic network connectivity for virtual machines (VMs) on a single host

Distributed Switch

  • vSphere distributed switch is centralized using vCenter. It handles network traffic for clusters in a vSphere environment.
  • vSphere distributed switch requires Enterprise Plus licensing.
  • A vSphere ware distributed switch provides the same functionality as a standard switch, plus the ability to share resources, such as networking and storage, among multiple hosts. 
  • In addition, a distributed switch can be centrally managed, which makes it easier to deploy and manage VMs.
  • The benefits of using a vSphere distributed switch include increased performance, simplified management, and increased security.

3.2. Virtual Switch Objects Where Policies Apply

Virtual Switch Objects Where Policies Apply

3.3. Policies Available for a vSphere Standard and Distributed Switch

vSphere Standard Switch vs Distributed Switch


vSphere Networking


The topic reviewed in this article is part of the VMware vSphere 7.x Exam (2V0-21.20), which leads to the VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization 2021 certification. 

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Section 1 - Architectures and Technologies. 

Objective 1.7 – Identify vSphere distributed switch and vSphere standard switch capabilities.

See the full exam preparation guide and all exam sections from VMware.

More topics related to VMware

Juan Mulford
Juan Mulford
I have been active in IT for over fourteen years now. I am a solutions architect, working with storage, virtualization, and VDI solutions. For the past ten years, I have been living and working in Taiwan.

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