I think I understand these concepts but I'm a little rusty. Can someone give a concise, easy-to-understand explanation of these concepts? The planes are logical concepts, correct? Is this a cisco only thing?

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    Data plane is usually called user plane in the mobile network business. Also, the term forwarding plane is occasionally used. Because this doesn't answer the question, I posted it as a comment so that people googling for the different terms can find this question. – juhist Feb 2 '17 at 18:30
  • Thanks! Very interesting. I can google this question myself, but there was no answer on this site :) – stets Feb 2 '17 at 19:45
  • Also "plane" just means "layer", if you were wondering. – immibis Feb 3 '17 at 11:01

These terms are abstract logical concepts, much like the OSI model.

Data plane refers to all the functions and processes that forward packets/frames from one interface to another.

Control plane refers to all the functions and processes that determine which path to use. Routing protocols, spanning tree, ldp, etc are examples.

Management plane is all the functions you use to control and monitor devices.

These are mostly logical concepts but things like SDN separate them into actual devices.

Finally, all manufacturers use these concepts.


Forwarding Plane - Moves packets from input to output

Control Plane - Determines how packets should be forwarded

Management Plane - Methods of configuring the control plane (CLI, SNMP, etc.)

Undestand the difference between Forwarding, Control and Management Plane


1 --- Data Plane:

These are software or hardware components of the router or switch related to routing/forwarding user data/traffic from one interface to another. In the case of routers, routing table and/or forwarding table (CEF in case of Cisco) and the routing logic constitute the data plane function. MAC Address Table and Switching logic comprise the data plane in the switches.

2 --- Control Plane: In the case of a router, these are functions/components of the router which are responsible for populating the routing table/forwarding table and hence enable the data plane functions. Examples are routing protocols such as OSPF, EIGRP, BGP, IS-IS, LDP, etc.

3 --- Management Plane:

These are components of the router that are used to manage the router/switch/device that are compliant with standard protocols such as SNMP, TELNET, SSH, NETCONF,etc

4 ---- Service Plane:

I am not absolutely sure about these, but I would assume that these might be fine distinction of management plane. For example, components that are used for automatic update or OS download and upgrade functions.

Please see the following image from Cisco Site:



The control plane makes the decision about how traffic should be prioritized and secured and where it should be switched ie its means than its for configuration and management and the data plane decides where the packets arriving (destination)forwarding

  • Welcome to NE, Musaba . Management functions are considered to be in the management pane. – Ron Trunk Jul 4 at 18:50

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