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What Came First: VLANs or VRFs?

One of my friends sent me this question:

Do you remember if VLANs came first or was it VRFs?

I remember VLANs using ISL (pre-802.1q encapsulation) on early Cisco Ethernet switches (mid 90s), the earliest reference I could track down on Wikipedia is from 1988.

The first time I've seen multiple independent routing tables on the same device (VRFs) was in IOS 12.0T (the initial MPLS/VPN release) released sometimes in 2000 (at least according to when my MPLS/VPN book was published).

There might have been other products out there using VRF-like constructs before MPLS/VPN (Shasta comes to mind, but it started in 1998), so it looks like VLANs predate VRFs by a decade or so.

Have I missed something? Were there networking devices with multiple routing and forwarding tables before 1998… apart from IBM mainframes running two partitions ;) Please write a comment if you remember them.

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7 comments:

  1. I don't think there was anything pre 1998. Cisco Tag Switching (RFC 2105) came out around 1997/1998 and that became MPLS in the end. That's what gave us VRFs and VRF-Lite is simplified version of MPLS VRFs.

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  2. What is it good for knowing which was first? Wow Ivan is even working on sundays, what an attitude.

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  3. It isn't really everything people mean when they say VRF, but CONFIG_IP_MULTIPLE_TABLES went into Linux with 2.1.68, so 1997.

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  4. I think it has nothing to do with Cisco or so; VLANS where introduced by companies like Kalpana, Grand Junction and bought by Cisco in 1994 and after, not introduced by them; others where 3Com, Synoptics, so it was arround 1993/94 when first VLANs where introduced; there where as well proprietary solutions for switching as well as for routing; I remember Fibronics with a simple virtualized switch solution; but this firts IP switch company unfortunately I dont remenber; all long before VR's at all; and there was also an early standard in Ethernet for the protocolltype; some NIC vendors allowed it arround 1992 to code the type by the adapter in flash ROM; this allowed to have multiple virtual networks on the same cable; was nice thinking at this time; it's light years back by talking about assingning cnames to v6 and container networking;

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  5. I remember 3Com switches in the early-mid 90s that had local VLANs but not trunking technologies (no ISL, not 802.1q)

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  6. As i recall that is correct. In 2000, Dan Tappan was writing the VRF code in cisco. I wanted VR for "virtual router" he and Eric Rosen wanted "Virtual Forwarder". The compromise became VRF. ("Virtual router Forwarder")
    And of course I could type "sh ip vr" as an abbreviation...

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  7. I remember this technology first emerging too, although I couldn't put an exact date to it. I must be showing my age, but I remember the very first computer going on sale too!

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