InterSwitch Link ISL

VLAN tagging is not a difficult concept – just remember that its purpose is to allow frames from multiple VLANs to be transferred across a trunk link and properly identified at the other end.

Recall that ISL only works on 100Mbps ports and faster. As such, if your switch only has 10 Mbps ports available, using ISL will not be an option. One other limitation of ISL is that only ISL-aware devices will understand ISL frames – all others will not consider the frame to be valid.

Some network interface cards include ISL capabilities. If installed in a server, the server could then be part of two (or more) VLANs concurrently. This would allow systems from different VLANs to connect to the server without needing to route between different broadcast domains. In this way, the connection between the server and the ISL-configured switch port acts as a trunk link. In an even more common example, imagine if you connected a router to your switch in order to route between different VLANs. If that router had a 100Mb port that was ISL-capable (as many Cisco routers do), it could be connected to a trunk port on the switch, and provide routing between your VLANs. In this case, the router would add VLAN identification tags before forwarding a frame to the switch (and vice versa). The switch interface would strip away the tagging, and be sure that the frame is forwarded onto the proper VLAN.

Note that there is a downside to this configuration. By making a system (the router in this case) part of multiple VLANs, it will receive broadcast traffic from each of the VLANs for which its switch port is configured.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.