How separate instances affect MSTP

Assigning different groups of VLANs to different instances ensures that those VLAN groups use independent forwarding paths. For example, in the following figure, each instance has a different forwarding path.

Active topologies built by three independent MST instances

While allowing only one active path through a given instance, MSTP retains any redundant physical paths in the instance to serve as backups (blocked) paths in case the existing active path fails. Thus, if an active path in an instance fails, MSTP automatically activates (unblocks) an available backup to serve as the new active path through the instance for as long as the original active path is down. Note also that a given port may simultaneously operate in different states (forwarding or blocking) for different spanning tree instances within the same region. This depends on the VLAN memberships to which the port is assigned. For example, if a port belongs to VLAN 1 in the IST instance of a region and also belongs to VLAN 4 in MSTI "x" in the same region, the port may apply different states to traffic for these two different instances.

Within a region, traffic routed between VLANs in separate instances can take only one physical path. To ensure that traffic in all VLANs within a region can travel between regions, all of the boundary ports for each region should belong to all VLANs configured in the region. Otherwise, traffic from some areas within a region could be blocked from moving to other regions.

All MSTP switches (including STP and RSTP switches) in a network use BPDUs (Bridge Protocol Data Units) to exchange information from which to build multiple, active topologies in the individual instances within a region and between regions. From this information:
  • The MSTP switches in each LAN segment determine a designated bridge and designated port or trunk for the segment.

  • The MSTP switches belonging to a particular instance determine the root bridge and root port or trunk for the instance.

  • For the IST instance within a region, the MSTP switches linking that region to other regions (or to STP or RSTP switches) determine the IST root bridge and IST root port or trunk for the region. (For any Multiple spanning tree instance—MSTI—in a region, the regional root may be a different switch that is not necessarily connected to another region.)

  • The MSTP switches block redundant links within each LAN segment, across all instances, and between regions, to prevent any traffic loops.

As a result, each individual instance (spanning tree) within a region determines its regional root bridge, designated bridges, and designated ports or trunks.