In a network system, such as a router or a switch, it is difficult to achieve flexibility and performance at the same time. We propose an architecture that consists of network processors for packet processing and a VLAN-based Ethernet backplane for switching. This allows us to use flexible network processors for packet processing functions, and still exploit the cost-effectiveness of Ethernet to achieve switching capacity. We propose an architecture where we use VLAN tagging for internal traffic management, and also for distributed packet forwarding decisions between ingress and egress units. We describe our implementation of this system and report performance analysis, where we find that we can achieve near line rate performance in a system with Gigabit Ethernet ports, and that internal memory management is important for network processor performance.