STP

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Understanding STP

Introduction

Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) is a Layer 2 protocol that runs on bridges and switches. The specification for STP is IEEE 802.1D. The main purpose of STP is to ensure that you do not create loops when you have redundant paths in your network. Loops are deadly to a network.


Concepts

STP runs on bridges and switches that are 802.1D-compliant. There are different flavors of STP, but 802.1D is the most popular and widely implemented. You implement STP on bridges and switches in order to prevent loops in the network. Use STP in situations where you want redundant links, but not loops. Redundant links are as important as backups in the case of a failover in a network. A failure of your primary activates the backup links so that users can continue to use the network. Without STP on the bridges and switches, such a failure can result in a loop. If two connected switches run different flavors of STP, they require different timings to converge. When different flavors are used in the switches, it creates timing issues between Blocking and Forwarding states. Therefore, it is recommended to use the same flavors of STP.


Description of the technology

With STP, the key is for all the switches in the network to elect a root bridge that becomes the focal point in the network. All other decisions in the network, such as which port to block and which port to put in forwarding mode, are made from the perspective of this root bridge. A switched environment, which is different from a bridge environment, most likely deals with multiple VLANs. When you implement a root bridge in a switching network, you usually refer to the root bridge as the root switch. Each VLAN must have its own root bridge because each VLAN is a separate broadcast domain. The roots for the different VLANs can all reside in a single switch or in various switches.

Note: The selection of the root switch for a particular VLAN is very important. You can choose the root switch, or you can let the switches decide, which is risky. If you do not control the root selection process, there can be suboptimal paths in your network.

All the switches exchange information for use in the root switch selection and for subsequent configuration of the network. Bridge protocol data units (BPDUs) carry this information. Each switch compares the parameters in the BPDU that the switch sends to a neighbor with the parameters in the BPDU that the switch receives from the neighbor.

In the STP root selection process, less is better. If Switch A advertises a root ID that is a lower number than the root ID that Switch B advertises, the information from Switch A is better. Switch B stops the advertisement of its root ID, and accepts the root ID of Switch A.