The Spanning Tree Algorithm


STP Topology
Redundancy increases the availability of the network topology by protecting the network from a single point of failure, such as a failed network cable or switch. When redundancy is introduced into a Layer 2 design, loops and duplicate frames can occur. Loops and duplicate frames can have severe consequences on a network. The Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) was developed to address these issues.
STP ensures that there is only one logical path between all destinations on the network by intentionally blocking redundant paths that could cause a loop. A port is considered blocked when network traffic is prevented from entering or leaving that port. This does not include bridge protocol data unit (BPDU) frames that are used by STP to prevent loops. You will learn more about STP BPDU frames later in the chapter. Blocking the redundant paths is critical to preventing loops on the network. The physical paths still exist to provide redundancy, but these paths are disabled to prevent the loops from occurring. If the path is ever needed to compensate for a network cable or switch failure, STP recalculates the paths and unblocks the necessary ports to allow the redundant path to become active.
STP Algorithm
STP uses the Spanning Tree Algorithm (STA) to determine which switch ports on a network need to be configured for blocking to prevent loops from occurring. The STA designates a single switch as the root bridge and uses it as the reference point for all path calculations. In the figure the root bridge, switch S1, is chosen through an election process. All switches participating in STP exchange BPDU frames to determine which switch has the lowest bridge ID (BID) on the network. The switch with the lowest BID automatically becomes the root bridge for the STA calculations. The root bridge election process will be discussed in detail later in this chapter.
The BPDU is the message frame exchanged by switches for STP. Each BPDU contains a BID that identifies the switch that sent the BPDU. The BID contains a priority value, the MAC address of the sending switch, and an optional extended system ID. The lowest BID value is determined by the combination of these three fields. You will learn more about the root bridge, BPDU, and BID in later topics.
After the root bridge has been determined, the STA calculates the shortest path to the root bridge. Each switch uses the STA to determine which ports to block. While the STA determines the best paths to the root bridge for all destinations in the broadcast domain, all traffic is prevented from forwarding through the network. The STA considers both path and port costs when determining which path to leave unblocked. The path costs are calculated using port cost values associated with port speeds for each switch port along a given path. The sum of the port cost values determines the overall path cost to the root bridge. If there is more than one path to choose from, STA chooses the path with the lowest path cost. You will learn more about path and port costs in later topics.
When the STA has determined which paths are to be left available, it configures the switch ports into distinct port roles. The port roles describe their relation in the network to the root bridge and whether they are allowed to forward traffic.
The Root Bridge
Every spanning-tree instance (switched LAN or broadcast domain) has a switch designated as the root bridge. The root bridge serves as a reference point for all spanning-tree calculations to determine which redundant paths to block.
An election process determines which switch becomes the root bridge.
Best Paths to the Root Bridge
When the root bridge has been designated for the spanning-tree instance, the STA starts the process of determining the best paths to the root bridge from all destinations in the broadcast domain. The path information is determined by summing up the individual port costs along the path from the destination to the root bridge.
The default port costs are defined by the speed at which the port operates. In the table, you can see that 10-Gb/s Ethernet ports have a port cost of 2, 1-Gb/s Ethernet ports have a port cost of 4, 100-Mb/s Fast Ethernet ports have a port cost of 19, and 10-Mb/s Ethernet ports have a port cost of 100.

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