You can create abstracted network devices called vSphere Standard Switches. You use standard switches to provide network connectivity to hosts and virtual machines. A standard switch can bridge traffic internally between virtual machines in the same VLAN and link to external networks.

Standard Switch Overview

To provide network connectivity to hosts and virtual machines, you connect the physical NICs of the hosts to uplink ports on the standard switch. Virtual machines have network adapters (vNICs) that you connect to port groups on the standard switch. Every port group can use one or more physical NICs to handle their network traffic. If a port group does not have a physical NIC connected to it, virtual machines on the same port group can only communicate with each other but not with the external network.

Figure 1. vSphere Standard Switch architecture
vSphere Standard Switch architecture

A vSphere Standard Switch is very similar to a physical Ethernet switch. Virtual machine network adapters and physical NICs on the host use the logical ports on the switch as each adapter uses one port. Each logical port on the standard switch is a member of a single port group. For information about maximum allowed ports and port groups, see the Configuration Maximums documentation.

Standard Port Groups

Each port group on a standard switch is identified by a network label, which must be unique to the current host. You can use network labels to make the networking configuration of virtual machines portable across hosts. You should give the same label to the port groups in a data center that use physical NICs connected to one broadcast domain on the physical network. Conversely, if two port groups are connected to physical NICs on different broadcast domains, the port groups should have distinct labels.

For example, you can create Production and Test environment port groups as virtual machine networks on the hosts that share the same broadcast domain on the physical network.

A VLAN ID, which restricts port group traffic to a logical Ethernet segment within the physical network, is optional. For port groups to receive the traffic that the same host sees, but from more than one VLAN, the VLAN ID must be set to VGT (VLAN 4095).

Number of Standard Ports

To ensure efficient use of host resources on ESXi hosts, the number of ports of standard switches are dynamically scaled up and down. A standard switch on such a host can expand up to the maximum number of ports supported on the host.