Networking has become essential for virtually every organization in today’s digital era. Besides, the implementation of networking comprises control planes, data planes, and management planes, which are vital in managing networks and ensuring they work effectively. These planes play a critical role in enabling efficient and secure network traffic management and forwarding.
In this tutorial, we’ll delve into the differences between control, data, and management planes.
2. Control, Data, and Management Planes: an Overview
In order to better understand how a computer network operates, it’s relevant to have a grasp of the different planes that make up the network architecture. This section provides an overview of the three planes: control, data, and management.
2.1. Control Plane
The control plane is responsible for managing network routing protocols, which enable communication between devices.
It controls the exchange of routing information between devices in the network and determines the best path for data to take. This plane can use protocols such as the Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) and Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) to do that.
The control plane operates at a higher abstraction level when compared to the data plane. In such a way, it determines the optimal route for data transmission within the network and guarantees that the data reaches its intended destination.
On the other hand, the data plane is responsible for forwarding packets, which involves a lower level of abstraction.
2.2. Data Plane
The data plane (also referred to as the forwarding plane) is responsible for forwarding data packets between devices in the network.
Since it operates at a lower level of abstraction than the control plane, it forwards packets according to the routing information provided by the control plane.
The data plane is critical for the network’s performance because it’s responsible for the efficient transfer of data between devices. It uses protocols such as Ethernet and Internet Protocol (IP) to perform its functions. So, the data plane processes data packets and forwards them to their intended destination by effectively executing previously defined routes.
2.3. Management Plane
The management plane is responsible for managing and monitoring the network’s operations. In this plane, we can configure devices, monitor the device’s performance, and ensure that the network operates efficiently. Moreover, the management plane is responsible for other tasks such as software updates, security, and monitoring.
Furthermore, the management plane is responsible for guaranteeing the network’s operations are secure and reliable. It is relevant to highlight that it commonly employs protocols like Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and Network Configuration Protocol (NETCONF) to execute its functions.
3. Differences Between Control, Data, and Management Planes
The following image shows the structural configuration of the control, data, and management planes:
These planes are different in several ways. In the following subsections, we’ll discuss some of these differences.
The control plane is responsible for managing and controlling the network, while the data plane is responsible for transmitting and receiving data packets. On the other hand, the management plane is responsible for configuring and monitoring network devices.
The control plane operates at a higher layer of the Open System Interconnection (OSI) model than the data plane. The management plane, in turn, operates at a higher layer of the OSI model than the data plane but lower than the control plane. In contrast, the data plane operates at a lower layer of the OSI model than the control plane.
The control plane uses protocols such as OSPF, BGP, and MPLS to exchange information between network devices. The data plane, however, employs protocols such as Ethernet, TCP/IP, and UDP to transmit data packets between network devices. In contrast, the management plane uses protocols such as SNMP, SSH, and Telnet to configure and manage network devices.
The main focus of the control plane is on managing the overall network topology, including how data packets are forwarded between network devices. In contrast, the data plane focuses on forwarding data packets based on the routing decisions made by the control plane. Finally, the management plane focuses on configuring and monitoring network devices.
The following table summarizes and compares the aspects of each network plane:
In conclusion, understanding the differences between the control, data, and management planes is crucial for network administrators, as it enables them to manage networks effectively.
They differ in their functions and responsibilities, but they work together to ensure that the network operates efficiently and reliably.