Resilient Ethernet Protocol

Terry Slattery
Principal Architect

I became aware of the Resilient Ethernet Protocol (REP) a few weeks ago and have been reading about it.  The Cisco documents position it as a replacement for the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP).  The documentation says that it can fail over in 50ms, which is certainly impressive, but then says that in some cases it can take up to 250ms to fail over without specifying the conditions in which this may occur.  If you know any details, please leave a comment.

REP requires a linear topology with the ends of the line connected into the rest of the L2 topology.  See Figure 1 below (figures are taken from Cisco docs).


The target use is for Metro Ethernet deployments by service providers, thus the linear topology which is wrapped into a ring, see Figure 2. Each end of the linear topology must connect into the remaining L2 topology so that there is L2 connectivity between the Edge Ports.  Figure 2 doesn’t show a blocking port, which is required for normal operation.


You select one port in the path to be the blocking port.  In essence, you are creating the spanning tree and identifying the blocking links.  When a failure of any other link occurs in the path, the adjacent switches report the failure to their neighbors and the blocking link begins forwarding.  Redrawing the networks of Figure 4 using a spanning tree layout is an interesting exercise.


Hosts that are connected to each half of the REP “ring” will normally communicate via the path over the rest of the network, i.e. via the L2 network where the Edge Ports connect.  When a failure occurs in the path, the blocking link begins forwarding and the switches all flush their forwarding tables.  The forwarding entries are quickly re-learned and the two hosts then communicate via the new forwarding path as shown in Figure 6.


When planning a REP network, it may help to redraw it as a spanning tree topology to determine the best location for blocking ports.  Traffic flows may drive your selection of the blocking port as much as balancing the branches of the tree.

Finally, there is a hardware and IOS requirement.  It is only available on Metro Ethernet devices like the ME3400.  Other devices that are typically used by service providers may support it; the Cat 4500 is one example.

REP is an interesting idea.  I think that the trade-off is the manual configuration versus the rapid fail-over time.  As service providers work to improve network availability, shaving seconds off the fail-over times will be important and this is one of the tools that is available.



Re-posted with Permission 

NetCraftsmen would like to acknowledge Infoblox for their permission to re-post this article which originally appeared in the Applied Infrastructure blog under


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Nick Kelly

Cybersecurity Engineer, Cisco

Nick has over 20 years of experience in Security Operations and Security Sales. He is an avid student of cybersecurity and regularly engages with the Infosec community at events like BSides, RVASec, Derbycon and more. The son of an FBI forensics director, Nick holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice and is one of Cisco’s Fire Jumper Elite members. When he’s not working, he writes cyberpunk and punches aliens on his Playstation.


Virgilio “BONG” dela Cruz Jr.

CCDP, CCNA V, CCNP, Cisco IPS Express Security for AM/EE
Field Solutions Architect, Tech Data

Virgilio “Bong” has sixteen years of professional experience in IT industry from academe, technical and customer support, pre-sales, post sales, project management, training and enablement. He has worked in Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) as a member of the WAN and LAN Switching team. Bong now works for Tech Data as the Field Solutions Architect with a focus on Cisco Security and holds a few Cisco certifications including Fire Jumper Elite.


John Cavanaugh

CCIE #1066, CCDE #20070002, CCAr
Chief Technology Officer, Practice Lead Security Services, NetCraftsmen

John is our CTO and the practice lead for a talented team of consultants focused on designing and delivering scalable and secure infrastructure solutions to customers across multiple industry verticals and technologies. Previously he has held several positions including Executive Director/Chief Architect for Global Network Services at JPMorgan Chase. In that capacity, he led a team managing network architecture and services.  Prior to his role at JPMorgan Chase, John was a Distinguished Engineer at Cisco working across a number of verticals including Higher Education, Finance, Retail, Government, and Health Care.

He is an expert in working with groups to identify business needs, and align technology strategies to enable business strategies, building in agility and scalability to allow for future changes. John is experienced in the architecture and design of highly available, secure, network infrastructure and data centers, and has worked on projects worldwide. He has worked in both the business and regulatory environments for the design and deployment of complex IT infrastructures.