As discussed in Chapter 5, 802.1Q has defined standards-based technologies for handling VLANs. To reduce the complexity of this standard, the 802.1 committee specified only a single instance of Spanning Tree for all VLANs. Not only does this provide a considerably less flexible approach than the Per-VLAN Spanning Tree (PVST) adopted by Cisco, it creates an interoperability problem. To address both of these issues, Cisco introduced the Per-VLAN Spanning Tree Plus (PVST+) protocol in 4.1 code on the Catalyst 5000s (all 4000s and 6000s support PVST+). This feature allows the two schemes to interoperate in a seamless and transparent manner in almost all topologies and configurations.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to using a single Spanning Tree. On the upside, it allows switches to be simpler in design and place a lighter load on the CPU. On the downside, a single Spanning Tree precludes load balancing and can lead to incomplete connectivity in certain VLANs (the single STP VLAN might select a link that is not included in other VLANs). Given these tradeoffs, most network designers have concluded that the downsides of having one Spanning Tree outweigh the benefits.
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