Path Cost

Bridges use the concept of cost to evaluate how close they are to other bridges. 802.1D originally defined cost as 1000 Mbps divided by the bandwidth of the link in Mbps. For example, a 10BaseT link has a cost of 100 (1000/10), Fast Ethernet and FDDI use a cost of 10 (1000/100). This scheme has served the world well since Radia Perlman first began working on the protocol in 1983. However, with the rise of Gigabit Ethernet and OC-48 ATM (2.4 Gbps), a problem has come up because the cost is stored as an integer value that cannot carry fractional costs. For example, OC-48 ATM results in 1000 Mbps/2400 Mbps = .41667, an invalid cost value. One option is to use a cost of 1 for all links equal to or greater than 1 Gbps; however, this prevents STP from accurately choosing "the best path" in Gigabit networks.

As a solution to this dilemma, the IEEE has decided to modify cost to use a nonlinear scale. Table 6-1 lists the new cost values.

Table 6-1. STP Cost Values for Network Bridges


STP Cost

4 Mbps


10 Mbps


16 Mbps


45 Mbps


100 Mbps


155 Mbps


622 Mbps


1 Gbps


10 Gbps


The values in Table 6-1 were carefully chosen so that the old and new schemes interoperate for the link speeds in common use today.

The key point to remember concerning STP cost values is that lower costs are better. Also keep in mind that Versions 1.X through 2.4 of the Catalyst 5000 NMP use the old, linear values, whereas version 3.1 and later use the newer values. All Catalyst 4000s and 6000s utilize the new values.

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