Recall that Spanning Tree centers around a process of each port saving a copy of the best BPDU it has heard. However, there must be some process to age out this stored information, otherwise, the network would never repair itself after the failure of a bridge or link. The Max Age timer controls the length of this age out period.
The Root Bridge generates Configuration BPDUs on all of its ports every 2 seconds (the default Hello Time interval). This triggers a cascade of Configuration BPDUs that, under normal conditions, should reach every segment in the network. As long as a non-Designated Port continues to receive Configuration BPDUs from the segment's Designated Port, the port's saved information never ages out. In other words, this continual refresh of more attractive BPDU information keeps the non-Designated Port in a Blocking state.
However, if an upstream bridge or link fails, the flow of Configuration BPDUs is interrupted. After Max Age seconds, the port starts sending its own Configuration BPDUs as it transitions into the Listening state. As long as no more attractive BPDUs are heard from other devices, the port eventually transitions through the Learning state and ends up in the Forwarding state. At this point, the port has restored connectivity to the local segment.
In practice, Max Age is used to detect indirect failures. For example, the directly connected failure illustrated in Figure 7-20 does not require Cat-C to use the Max Age timer.
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