Managing traffic: From airports to VLANs


From Airports to VLANs

As business travelers walk briskly, custodians clean, and administrative workers hold their heads down and move forward to deliver their messages – the common area connecting large airport concourses can quickly become a mess.  Huge amounts of traffic move in different directions, creating congestion in the space.

To improve traffic flow, an architect could re-design the common area in an airport to eliminate all commonality by including multiple levels, so that each separate concourse had its own truly dedicated path.  As you can imagine, this set of bridges would create multiple replications of identical walkways, each with their own infrastructure. This would be a very expensive way to manage pedestrian traffic.

Rather than creating elevated paths for each concourse, the architect could simply paint lines on the floor and tell each pedestrian to walk only in his/her specific lane until he/she reaches the associated concourse.  This system would attain the same goal – segregating traffic and eliminating interruptions caused by inter-concourse travelers while drastically reducing infrastructure costs to build.

Airport Concorses to VLANsAirport to VLANs

Without a question, the above example is an oversimplification.  It is tough to imagine that a pedestrian traffic problem could be solved by red lines on the ground and a simple word of advice from the architect.

Managing Ethernet traffic with Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs) on Comtrol’s RocketLinx® Ethernet switches relates closely to the situation described above, only with less stringent TSA requirements.  A VLAN is a virtual partition created within a network to isolate Ethernet packets, as if the packets were traveling on completely separate networks.  Returning to the analogy above – using VLANs and a single Ethernet switch to segregate Ethernet traffic would equate to painting red lines on the ground and telling each pedestrian to walk only in their lane.  Using multiple Ethernet switches to create separate Local Area Networks (LANs) would equate to building physically separate walkways for each concourse, but would be very expensive.  Thankfully, Ethernet packets will always do what they are told so the simple solution (VLANs) is viable. Whether by specific port assignment or VLAN tagging, you can rest assured that your Ethernet packets will stay only in the VLAN they are assigned – without the need for TSA enforcement.

Multiple VLANs

Boiling this all down:
VLANs are used in Ethernet networking to isolate Ethernet traffic to specific parts of a network, all while running through the same physical switch.  In an office network, VLANs may be used to separate accounting and sales data that moves over the same physical switch.  Stepping into the world of industrial automation, VLANs can be used to isolate traffic between specific processes to help ensure a timely and reliable delivery of the process Ethernet data when required – without the need for multiple switches to ensure data separation.

Comtrol’s managed RocketLinx Ethernet switches, with both web and Command Line Interface management capabilities, have a friendly and flexible method for setting up and managing VLANs.  Next time you walk through a busy airport, think: Would your network like to operate like this?  If not, give Comtrol a call to discuss the capability of our manged Ethernet switches.

For more information, contact Joe House at 763.957.9127 or


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