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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Quick Tech Tip: Layer 2 Tunneling protocol : L2TP

Layer Two Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) is an extension of the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) used by an Internet service provider (ISP) to enable the operation of a virtual private network (VPN) over the Internet.
The two end components that make up L2TP are the L2TP Access Concentrator (LAC) which is the device that physically terminates a call and the L2TP Network Server (LNS), which is the device that terminates and possibly authenticates the PPP stream. Once a tunnel is established, the network traffic between the peers is bidirectional. To be useful for networking, higher level protocols are then run through the L2TP tunnel. To facilitate this L2TP session (or call) is established within the tunnel for each higher-level protocol such as PPP. Either the LAC or LNS may initiate sessions. The traffic for each session is isolated by L2TP, so it is possible to set up multiple virtual networks across a single tunnel.
The packets exchanged within an L2TP tunnel are either categorized as control
packets or data packets. L2TP provides reliability features for the control packets, but no reliability for data packets. Reliability, if desired, must be provided by the nested protocols running within each session of the L2TP tunnel.
An L2TP tunnel can extend across an entire PPP session or only across one segment of a two-segment session. This can be represented by four different tunneling models :
- Voluntary Tunnel model : a tunnel is created by the user, typically by the use of an L2TP enabled client which is called the LAC client. The user will send L2TP packets to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) which will forward them on to the LNS.
- Compulsory tunnel model-incoming call: a tunnel is created between ISP LAC and the LNS home gateway.
- Compulsory tunnel model-remote dial the home gateway (LNS) initiates a tunnel to an ISP (LAC) (outgoing call) and instructs the ISP to place a local call to the PPP enabled client which is the remote user.
- L2TP Multi-hop connection : It is a way of redirecting L2TP traffic on behalf of client LACs and LNSs. A Multi-hop connection is established using an L2TP Multi-hop gateway. A tunnel is established from a client LAC to the L2TP Multi-hop gateway and then another tunnel is established between the L2TP Multi-hop gateway and a target LNS. L2TP traffic between client LAC and LNS is redirected to each other through the gateway.

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