STP Puzzle #3 – Answer Part 2

 In 200-301 V1 Ch10: RSTP and EtherChannel, 200-301 V1 Part 3: VLANs, STP, STP Puzzle

Root Port, Designated Port, and tiebreakers: Today’s #CCNA fun to wrap up this STP puzzle. Today’s post analyzes the rest of this puzzle’s STP roles and states, now that I told you that all the switches use default costs. Enjoy!

Quick Review and One Assumption

So, as a quick review… So far, we know for sure that S4 is the root. We also know the STP role for all three relevant interfaces on both S4 and S2, with all of those roles making the three ports on S2 and S4 sit in a forwarding state. Figure 2 summarizes those roles.

Figure 2 – Known Information before Considering Port Costs

This next part of the discussion finds all other port roles and states, by assuming the following:

  • All ports use default costs (as stated in the previous post)
  • All ports autonegotiate to use their best speed (as ignored in the previous post)

On that last point, note that the switches adjust their STP costs to mirror the port’s speed, unless the cost is explicitly configured.

Looking for S1’s Root Port

Of the two switches about which we know little, S1 ha a direct link to the root (S4), and S3 does not. It is a little easier to build from the root outward, so the discussion here starts with S1.

S1 has two obvious paths to reach the root. One path includes two links, at FastE speeds, defaulting to cost 19. The other path has two links at cost 19, as follows:

  • S1’s F0/4 = cost 19
  • S1’s F0/2 + S2’s F0/4 = Cost 38

Clearly, S1’s better path to root exits S1’s F0/4 port, making that port S1’s root port.

Looking for Role on the Link from S1 to S2

Next, look at the link from S1 to S2. Then remember these two key STP rules about the roles on a given point-to-point link:

  • One end is the Designated Port (DP)
  • The other end is either a Root Port (RP), or neither an RP nor DP.  That is, there are never two DPs on one link.

In this case, S1 already has an RP, and a non-root switch has only one RP. S1’s F0/2 cannot be an RP. Because S2’s F0/1 is already the DP, S1’s F0/2 cannot be a DP. So the only possible option that matches the known facts is for S1’s F0/2 to be neither RP nor DP, which means it falls to a blocking state, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4 – S3’s Role/State on Links to S4 and S2

STP of course did not go through all this detective work. Instead:

  • S2 advertised a Hello, with root cost 19, onto the link
  • S1 advertised a Hello, with root cost 19, onto the link
  • S2 won the tiebreaker, meaning that S2’s Bridge ID (BID) must happen to be numerically lower than S1’s.

The problem didn’t tell us whether S1 or S2 had a lower BID, but it did give enough info to tell us which switch won the DP election.

Looking for S3’s Root Port

Now that most of the details on S1 are settled, next think about S3. It has two two-link paths to root, and two three-link paths to root. With all default cost of 19, the two two-link paths tie at cost 19, as follows:

  • S3’s F0/1 + S1’s F0/4 = cost 38
  • S3’s F0/2 + S2’s F0/4 = Cost 38

So, what’s the tiebreaker in this case? The same tiebreaker used to choose the DP on the S1-S2 link: The lowest BID of the neighboring switch. We already know from the S1-S2 link that S2 won the battle to be DP, based on the lowest BID tiebreaker. S3 bases it choice of RP on those same BIDs, and S2’s BID is numerically lower than S1’s BID. S3 then chooses its F0/2 as its RP.

Looking for Role on the Link from S3 to S1

The final step looks at the roles on the link between S3 and S1. This one is relatively easy, if you remember the root path and root cost analysis on each. By way of review, both S1 and S3 will at some point forward Hellos onto that link, listing their own root cost. The Hello with the lower root cost wins, and that switch becomes the DP. In this case:

  • S1 root path: R1’s F0/4 port, cost 19
  • S3 root path: S3’s F0/2 port + S2’s F0/4 port, cost 38

S1 wins, and S1’s F0/3 becomes the DP on the S1-S3 link. S3 loses, and is neither DP nor RP on the link, and falls to a blocking state, as shown in figure 5.

Figure 5 – S3’s Role/State on All Links

So, for those of you who read this far… any variations on this theme that you’d like to see next time?

STP Puzzle #3 – Answer Part 1, and Part 2 of the Problem
CCENT Practice Question 101: Combining Protocols
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These are great, Wendell. Thank you!


Beautiful example. Thanks. Got me!

Ben Tauler (@bentauler)

Hi, I’ve issues knowing which side of the link gets the Blocking state, and which gets the DP. Is there any rule of the thumb to know?. Also , had issues understanding why S2 BID < S1 BID

Angel Munoz

This one was really great to practice the rules. Thank you!

I have a question (or two) about rule 1 to determine the designated port on any link:

  1. If the switch is the only switch sending STP Hellos onto that link, for that VLAN, that port is a DP.

How can a switch not be sending STP Hellos in a point-to-point link?
Can we just skip this rule and go to the second one? (2. the switch advertising the lowest root cost wins)

Wendell Odom

If two switches connect to the link, both will send Hellos. But if the switch port connects to a PC, the PC will not send a Hello or any other STP message. That’s the case for rule 1.

Chad Foxman

I dont understand why you assume the port costs. In the Rules (Rule #5) on the first page it says do not assume the defaults.

Wendell Odom

Well, I see how the detail and sequence could be confusing. I looked around, and here’s the flow:
Post 1: problem statement
Post 2: Answers, and more info for additional work
Post 3 (this one): Answers for the additional work.

So, the last bit of Post 2 says something like this: I need to tell you more about port costs to do the next bit, so, for the next activity, assume that all port costs use default settings. 

Hope that helps…

Chad Foxman

So it does. I didnt click on the Answer pages until I thought I went as far as possible. That being said, I need to slow down and make sure I read everything carefully. That is my biggest problem. Thank you so much Wendell your book and website is helping me greatly.

Wendell Odom

You’re quite welcome, Chad!
If I had more time than I do, I’d re-work some of these older posts to make them easier to navigate – case in point. Thanks for your understanding.
If you haven’t seen it, check this out for more CCNA:

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