Virtual switches simplify the configuration process by providing a single pane of glass for performing virtual network management tasks.

vSphere supports two types of virtual switches:

  • vSphere Standard Switch

  • vSphere Distributed Switch

A distributed switch offers several enhancements over a standard switch such as centralized control plane and support for traffic monitoring features.

Centralized management

Because distributed switches are created and managed centrally on a vCenter Server system, switch configuration is more consistent across ESXi hosts. Centralized management saves time, reduces mistakes, and reduces operational costs.

Additional features

Distributed switches have features that are not available on standard virtual switches.

NetFlow and port mirroring provide monitoring and troubleshooting capabilities to the virtual infrastructure.

To guarantee that traffic types with high priority have enough network capacity, you can assign shares to these traffic types by using Network I/O Control.

To ensure that every network adapter is used when the network traffic is high, you can use the Route Based on Physical NIC Load teaming policy. The distributed switch directs the traffic from one physical network adapter to another if the usage of an adapter remains at or above 75% for 30 seconds.


If vCenter Server is unavailable, distributed switches are not manageable. Consider vCenter Server a Tier 1 application.

Table 1. Design Decisions on Virtual Switch Type

Decision ID

Design Decision

Design Justification

Design Implication


Use vSphere Distributed Switches.

Simplifies management.

Migration from a standard switch to a distributed switch requires a minimum of two physical NICs to maintain redundancy.


Use a single vSphere Distributed Switch per vSphere Cluster.

  • Reduces the complexity of the network design.

  • Reduces the size of the fault domain.

Increases the number of vSphere Distributed Switches that must be managed.