Short for Virtual LAN (Local Area Network). Most commonly defined by IEEE standard 802.1Q. Allows LAN segments in geographically disparate locations to communicate as if they were on the same broadcast (collision) domain. Also allows logical segmentation of hosts on a large network for management or security purposes.
Here is a plausible example of a situation where a production tech would encounter VLANs:
-A given venue has a single Ethernet network infrastructure that carries traffic for office computers, IP phones and production related nodes such as media servers and DMX-to-Ethernet nodes. The various separate uses of the network would be divided into different VLANs. The actual division is done on the Ethernet switch. Devices on different VLANs cannot talk to each other without a router in-between, so downloading large files on the PC network won't affect quality of voice communication on the phones, and the production network is kept separate from the public internet.
Multiple VLANs defined on the same switch are analogous to totally separate networks on different physical switches and pieces of wire.
VLANs are commonly implemented on large enterprise networks using high-end managed switches made by Cisco, 3COM and HP (among others).
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