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PAGP vs LACP: Understanding the Differences

December 24, 2023

What is the difference between LACP and PAGP?

What is the difference between LACP and PAGP?

LACP Overview

Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP) is a part of the IEEE 802.3ad standard, facilitating the bundling of several physical ports to form a single logical channel. This protocol allows for load-balancing traffic over the aggregated links, enhancing bandwidth capability and providing redundancy. In the event of a link failure, LACP automatically reconfigures the system to eliminate the faulty link from the data path without interrupting service. LACP packets are Multicast over the Slow Protocols Ethernet Multicast address. By default, LACP is in passive mode, meaning that it only responds to LACP packets it receives but does not initiate LACP negotiation.

PAGP Overview

Port Aggregation Protocol (PAGP) is a Cisco proprietary protocol that is similar in purpose to LACP, aggregating several physical ports into a single logical channel. It facilitates increased bandwidth and redundancy, enhancing network performance and resilience. PAGP has two modes: Auto and Desirable. In the Auto mode, the port responds to PAGP packets it receives but doesn’t initiate PAGP negotiation. Desirable mode, however, allows the port to start PAGP negotiation actively. PAGP also integrates with Cisco’s Spanning Tree Protocol, allowing for more efficient handling of topology changes.

Comparison of LACP and PAGP

While both LACP and PAGP serve a similar purpose, there are critical distinctions between the two:

  1. Standardization: LACP is an industry-standard protocol, a part of IEEE 802.3ad, making it compatible across different network vendors. PAGP, however, is proprietary to Cisco, limiting its use to Cisco devices or systems that support it.
  2. Operational Modes: By default, LACP operates in passive mode, reacting to received LACP packets without initiating negotiation. PAGP, on the other hand, offers two modes—Auto and Desirable—with the latter actively starting PAGP negotiation.
  3. Integration with Spanning Tree Protocol: PAGP integrates with Cisco’s Spanning Tree Protocol for more efficient handling of topology changes, a feature not present in LACP.
  4. Packet Delivery: LACP packets are multicast over the Slow Protocols Ethernet Multicast address. In contrast, PAGP uses Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP) multicasts for its packet delivery.
  5. Redundancy Mechanism: While both protocols provide redundancy, LACP’s automated system for link failure reconfiguration offers a potentially more robust solution compared to the manual intervention typically required with PAGP.

These differences highlight the importance of understanding the specific needs and equipment of your network before choosing between these two protocols.

Supported Platforms for LACP and PAGP

A variety of network equipment providers support LACP and PAGP.

LACP Supported Platforms

Being an IEEE standard, LACP has broad industry support and compatibility. It is supported by many networking hardware vendors, including but not limited to:

  • Cisco Systems
  • Juniper Networks
  • Arista Networks
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise
  • Dell Technologies

This wide-ranging support makes LACP a flexible choice for networks that include equipment from multiple vendors.

PAGP Supported Platforms

As a Cisco proprietary protocol, PAGP is primarily supported on Cisco devices. This includes a range of Cisco switches, routers, and firewalls. Specific series supporting PAGP include:

  • Cisco Catalyst Series
  • Cisco Nexus Series
  • Cisco Meraki Series

While PAGP’s support is more limited, it can offer seamless integration and enhanced performance within a Cisco-based network infrastructure.

Benefits of using LACP over PAGP

While both LACP and PAGP have their unique advantages, several vital benefits can be associated with choosing LACP over PAGP:

  1. Broader Compatibility: As an IEEE standard, LACP is supported by a wide array of hardware vendors, making it a more versatile choice for multi-vendor network environments.
  2. Automated Link Aggregation: LACP automatically configures and manages aggregated links, reducing manual oversight and the potential for human error.
  3. Dynamic Link Changes: LACP enables dynamic changes to the link aggregation without needing to reconfigure the entire group manually.
  4. Robust Redundancy Mechanisms: LACP’s automated system for link failure reconfiguration provides a more reliable failover system compared to the manual intervention typically required with PAGP.
  5. Traffic Distribution: LACP offers more sophisticated traffic distribution algorithms, which can potentially lead to more efficient utilization of the aggregated links.
  6. Operational Transparency: LACP’s use of standardized, open protocols allows for better troubleshooting and transparency of operations compared to proprietary protocols such as PAGP.

Consider these benefits in alignment with the specific needs and equipment of your network when choosing between LACP and PAGP.

How do LACP and PAGP work in EtherChannel?

How do LACP and PAGP work in EtherChannel?

EtherChannel Basics

EtherChannel is a Cisco-developed technology that allows multiple physical Ethernet links to be grouped into one logical link. This provides fault tolerance and high-speed connections between switches, routers, and servers. By aggregating various links, network bandwidth is increased, and redundancy is ensured for network stability. EtherChannel can be created with two to eight active ports, offering a resilient high-bandwidth link. Load-balancing distributes traffic across the links, and if a link fails, traffic is automatically redistributed. LACP and PAGP protocols are used to facilitate automatic creation and simplify management tasks.

LACP in EtherChannel

Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP) in EtherChannel refers to the automated bundling of several physical links into one logical connection to increase bandwidth and provide redundancy. LACP dynamically manages the bundling in accordance with the configuration of the network devices. The protocol identifies Ethernet links with similar characteristics and groups them into an EtherChannel. The resulting logical link has the aggregate bandwidth of its constituent physical links, enhancing network efficiency. Should any of the physical links fail, LACP automatically reconfigures the group and redistributes the traffic to the remaining operational links, thereby ensuring uninterrupted network connectivity. This makes LACP an essential protocol in high-demand, mission-critical network environments where network stability is paramount.

PAGP in EtherChannel

PAGP (Port Aggregation Protocol) is a Cisco proprietary protocol that automates the aggregation of Ethernet links. It groups multiple physical associations into one logical connection, increasing bandwidth and providing redundancy. PAGP ensures network stability by efficiently managing link reconfigurations. Due to its compatibility with Cisco devices, PAGP is preferred in Cisco-heavy networking environments.

Load Balancing in LACP and PAGP

Both LACP and PAGP facilitate effective load balancing on EtherChannel. Load balancing is a core feature of these protocols, ensuring optimized data traffic distribution across the bundled links. The load balancing algorithm, determined by the switch, uses parameters such as source and destination IP address, MAC address, or port numbers to categorize traffic into different flows. Each flow is then assigned to a link within the EtherChannel, ensuring a balanced distribution of traffic. This strategy reduces the risk of any single link becoming a bottleneck, thereby enhancing network performance. In the event of a link failure, both LACP and PAGP dynamically redistribute traffic among the remaining operational links, ensuring uninterrupted network connectivity and service continuity.

Configuring EtherChannel with LACP and PAGP

To configure EtherChannel with LACP or PAGP, follow the steps outlined below:

  1. Select the Interface: Begin by selecting the interfaces that will form the EtherChannel bundle. You can do this by entering the interface configuration mode using the command `interface range.`
  2. Assign Mode: Next, set the mode as either active or passive for LACP and desirable or auto for PAGP. The `channel-group` command is used to assign the way and create the EtherChannel.
  3. Verify Configuration: After you configure the EtherChannel, verify its operation using the `show etherchannel summary` command. This command provides information about the EtherChannel, such as the port-channel interface number, the members of the EtherChannel, and the protocol configured.

Follow these steps with due diligence, as careless configuration could lead to network instability or failure. Remember, both LACP and PAGP are designed to enhance your network’s performance, reliability, and resilience.

What are the pros and cons of using LACP and PAGP?


Advantages of LACP

LACP, or Link Aggregation Control Protocol, offers several distinct advantages:

  • Increased Bandwidth: By bundling together multiple links, LACP effectively raises the total available network bandwidth. This helps prevent network congestion and ensures smooth data flow.
  • Network Redundancy: LACP provides inherent network redundancy. In case one link in the bundle fails, traffic is automatically rerouted through the remaining links, preventing any interruption in network services.
  • Load Balancing: LACP offers dynamic load balancing across the aggregated links, distributing network traffic evenly and maximizing link utilization.
  • Interoperability: Unlike PAgP, which is a Cisco proprietary protocol, LACP is an open standard. This means it can be used with devices from different manufacturers, offering greater flexibility and ease of integration in mixed-vendor environments.

Advantages of PAGP

PAGP, or Port Aggregation Protocol, also offers several unique benefits:

  • Easy Configuration: PAGP’s auto and desirable modes make configuration easier. Devices, in a hot way, will actively attempt to negotiate with their connected counterparts to establish an EtherChannel link, reducing the necessity for manual configuration.
  • Channel Consistency Checks: PAGP conducts continuous consistency checks on the member ports. If there are discrepancies in port settings, it turns off the inconsistent ports, thereby preventing potential network issues.
  • Cisco Proprietary: Being a Cisco proprietary protocol, PAGP often provides better integration and performance in an all-Cisco environment. It is well-suited for organizations that mainly use Cisco equipment.
  • Load Balancing: Much like LACP, PAGP also supports load balancing across the aggregated links, ensuring optimal utilization of the available bandwidth.

Disadvantages of LACP

While LACP offers a robust and flexible solution, it does have some drawbacks:

  • Interoperability Issues: Even though LACP is an open standard protocol, it may still face interoperability challenges in a multi-vendor environment. Not all network devices interpret and implement LACP in the same way, which can lead to compatibility issues.
  • Configuration Complexity: LACP can be more complex to configure compared to PAgP. It requires a more detailed understanding of both the LACP protocol and the specific network requirements.
  • Potential Latency: In LACP, the process of dynamically distributing traffic across multiple links can lead to minor latency. This may not be ideal for time-sensitive applications, where even a slight delay could impact performance.
  • Limited Cross-Stacking: LACP does not support cross-stacking in some network devices. This can limit the scalability and redundancy options for specific network layouts.

Disadvantages of PAGP

PAGP, while being beneficial in certain network conditions, does have its drawbacks:

  • Cisco Dependency: As a Cisco proprietary protocol, PAGP is not interoperable with devices from other manufacturers. This lack of versatility restricts its use in a multi-vendor network environment.
  • Lack of Standardization: Unlike LACP, PAGP is not an IEEE standard. This means that its implementation may not follow a consistent pattern across the board, leading to potential inconsistencies.
  • Limited Functionality: PAGP falls short in terms of functionality compared to LACP in specific scenarios. For example, it doesn’t support maximum bundling, a feature provided by LACP that allows the grouping of more links together.
  • No Standalone Mode: Unlike LACP, which supports both active and passive modes, PAGP does not have a standalone mode, limiting its flexibility in different configurations.

Selecting the Right Protocol for Your Network

Choosing the proper protocol for your network is pivotal, as it determines not only the capability and flexibility of your network but also its overall performance and efficiency. It is crucial to evaluate your specific network requirements thoroughly before deciding on a protocol. Here are a few considerations:

  • Interoperability: If you’re operating in a multi-vendor network environment, it’s crucial to select a protocol that can effectively communicate across different devices. LACP offers this advantage over PAGP, as the latter is a Cisco proprietary protocol.
  • Scalability and Redundancy: Consider if your network will need to grow or if it requires a backup protocol for redundancy. LACP, despite its limited cross-stacking, offers maximum bundling functionality, which could prove beneficial for such requirements.
  • Performance: Look at the performance of applications running on your network. If they are time-sensitive, the minor latency caused by LACP’s dynamic traffic distribution might not be the best fit.
  • Standardization: LACP, being an IEEE standard, ensures a consistent pattern in its implementation, offering an advantage over PAGP, which might present potential inconsistencies due to its lack of standardization.

Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to network protocols. What works best for one network may not be as effective for another. Therefore, understanding the needs and constraints of your specific network is vital in making an informed decision.

How do you configure LACP and PAGP on Cisco switches?


Configuring LACP on Cisco Switches

Configuring LACP on Cisco switches involves a series of steps. Access the controller via the console, enter the ‘enable’ mode, and then the global configuration mode. Define the interfaces to add to the channel group using ‘interface range’ followed by the interface IDs. Set the channel protocol to LACP with ‘channel-group one mode active’ to enable LACP on the interfaces and add them to the channel group. Use ‘end’ to exit to the privileged EXEC mode and save the configuration with ‘copy running-config startup-config’ to ensure it persists after a reboot.

Configuring PAGP on Cisco Switches

Configuring PAGP on Cisco switches involves several steps. First, gain console access and enter ‘enable’ mode. Then, enter global configuration mode and specify the desired interfaces using ‘interface range.’ Set the channel protocol to PAGP with ‘channel-group one mode desirable’ to enable PAGP and add interfaces to channel group 1. Finally, return to privileged EXEC mode and save the configuration using ‘copy running-config startup-config’ for persistence after system restart.

EtherChannel Configuration Best Practices

When configuring EtherChannel, there are several best practices to consider for an efficient network operation:

  • Uniform Configuration: Ensure that all interfaces within an EtherChannel have the same speed, duplex mode, and VLAN membership. Any discrepancies can lead to suboptimal traffic distribution and potential packet loss.
  • Cross-stack EtherChannel: For higher availability and redundancy, it’s recommended to configure EtherChannel across multiple physical switches rather than within a single button.
  • Load-Balancing Method: Configure the load-balancing method based on the type of traffic in your network. Understanding your network’s traffic patterns will help in selecting the most efficient load-balancing way.
  • Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) Settings: Ensure STP settings are consistent across all interfaces in the EtherChannel. Misconfiguration can lead to unexpected blocking of ports and disruption of network traffic.
  • Prune Unused VLANs: It’s a good idea to prune unnecessary VLANs from the trunks to conserve bandwidth.
  • Enable LACP Rate Fast: In the case of configuring LACP, enable ‘LACP rate fast’ for faster convergence if any link within the EtherChannel fails.
  • Consistent Native VLAN: Ensure the Native VLAN is consistent across all interfaces in the EtherChannel.

Adhering to these best practices aids in achieving a stable and efficient EtherChannel implementation, reducing potential network errors, and optimizing data flow.

Troubleshooting and Debugging LACP and PAGP

When troubleshooting and debugging Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP) and Port Aggregation Protocol (PAGP), there are several vital steps to follow:

  1. Check Interface Status: Use commands such as `show interfaces status` or `show interfaces description` to check the physical state of interfaces involved in the EtherChannel.
  2. Validate EtherChannel Configuration: With `show etherchannel summary,` you can verify the protocol and state of each EtherChannel. An interface might be standalone due to incorrect configuration.
  3. Examine Load-Balancing: The `show etherchannel load-balance` command can assist in determining if the configured load-balancing method is adequate for your traffic pattern.
  4. Investigate LACP/PAGP Specifics: Commands like `show lacp internal` and `show page internal` provides insights into the inner workings of these protocols on respective interfaces. Look for any discrepancies that might be causing issues.
  5. Check STP status: Misconfiguration in STP can lead to blocked ports. Use `show spanning-tree` to validate the STP status on EtherChannel interfaces.

Remember, the output of these commands should be carefully analyzed to identify and resolve issues. Effective troubleshooting and debugging of LACP and PAGP are crucial for maintaining a robust and high-performing network infrastructure.

Real-world Examples of LACP and PAGP Implementations

LACP and PAGP are widely used in network engineering to enhance network resilience and performance. LACP is commonly utilized in data centers for high-speed link management, ensuring redundancy and distributed traffic. PAGP, on the other hand, is found in campus networks for aggregating bandwidth between switches. Both protocols are also essential in telecom industries for link redundancy and load balancing in mobile backhaul networks. The versatility of LACP and PAGP is evident in various real-world scenarios.

What considerations are important when choosing between LACP and PAGP?

What considerations are important when choosing between LACP and PAGP?

Compatibility with Network Infrastructure

When choosing between LACP and PAGP, it’s crucial to consider the compatibility with your existing network infrastructure. LACP is part of an IEEE standard (802.3ad), making it widely supported across various network vendors. This makes LACP a more flexible option if your network infrastructure involves equipment from multiple vendors. Conversely, PAGP is a Cisco proprietary protocol, and therefore, it is mainly compatible with Cisco devices. If your network is predominantly or entirely composed of Cisco equipment, PAGP could serve as an efficient solution. However, for mixed environments, LACP is generally the more compatible choice.

Understanding Port Aggregation Protocols

Port aggregation protocols such as Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP) and Port Aggregation Protocol (PAGP) are fundamental in managing multiple physical links between network devices as one logical link. This amalgamation enhances network performance by enhancing bandwidth and providing fault tolerance. While both protocols perform similar tasks, they differ in terms of standardization and compatibility. LACP is broadly adopted due to its status as an IEEE standard (802.3ad), while PAGP, being a Cisco proprietary protocol, is specifically designed for use in networks with Cisco devices. Selecting the proper protocol relies heavily on understanding your network’s requirements and infrastructure.

Future Network Expansion and Upgrades

When planning for future network expansion and upgrades, it’s essential to factor in the scalability and flexibility of your chosen port aggregation protocol. LACP’s wide-ranging compatibility offers more room for future growth and diversification of network hardware. This protocol can seamlessly adapt to changes and expansions in your network, irrespective of the vendor hardware employed. On the other hand, choosing PAGP may limit your future options to primarily Cisco devices, potentially constraining your network growth if expansion with diverse hardware becomes necessary. Therefore, when contemplating future network extensions or upgrades, the standardization and vendor-agnostic nature of LACP could be a significant advantage.

Vendor-specific Limitations and Support

PAGP, a Cisco proprietary protocol, has limited compatibility, particularly in mixed-vendor environments. On the other hand, LACP, an IEEE standard, offers broader support and flexibility. While LACP simplifies troubleshooting and maintenance, it may not provide all the features of PAGP. To select the proper protocol, consider your network requirements, vendor limitations, and support mechanisms for an optimized and resilient configuration.

Performance and Scalability Factors

When evaluating performance and scalability factors between LACP and PAGP, it’s vital to consider several key points:

  1. Network Speed: LACP supports more rapid data transmission due to its capacity to balance traffic across all available links. PAGP, while also efficient, may not achieve the same level of throughput due to its Cisco-specific limitations.
  2. Scalability: LACP, being vendor-neutral, provides broader scalability options, particularly in mixed-vendor environments. On the other hand, PAGP may restrict your scalability to Cisco devices only.
  3. Fault Tolerance: With LACP, if a link fails, traffic is automatically redirected to other available links, providing robust fault tolerance. PAGP also offers dependable fault tolerance, but its operational mechanisms are specific to Cisco devices.
  4. Configuration Complexity: Both protocols have their complexities. However, given its vendor-neutral nature, LACP might require more nuanced configurations in a mixed-vendor environment. PAGP, while more straightforward to configure, is generally bound to Cisco hardware.

In conclusion, understanding these performance and scalability factors, in alignment with your specific network requirements, can guide you in choosing the most suitable port aggregation protocol.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is PAGP and LACP?

A: PAGP (Port Aggregation Protocol) and LACP (Link Aggregation Control Protocol) are both protocols used to negotiate the formation of an EtherChannel. They provide a way to bundle several physical ports into a single logical channel for increased bandwidth and redundancy.

Q: What are the differences between PAGP and LACP?

A: PAGP and LACP differ in their compatibility and support. LACP is an open standard defined in IEEE 802.3ad, allowing for interoperability between different vendors’ equipment. Meanwhile, PAGP is a Cisco proprietary protocol and is only supported on Cisco devices.

Q: When should I use PAGP?

A: PAGP should be used when working with Cisco devices exclusively. If you are in an environment with only Cisco networking equipment, you can make use of PAGP to form EtherChannels.

Q: When is it better to choose LACP over PAGP?

A: It’s better to choose LACP when working in a multi-vendor environment. LACP enables interoperability between different vendors’ networking gear, making it the preferred choice for environments with diverse equipment.

Q: Can PAGP form an EtherChannel with another switch running LACP?

A: No, PAGP cannot negotiate an EtherChannel with a switch running LACP. PAGP and LACP are not compatible with each other and thus cannot form EtherChannels together.

Q: What are the different modes in PAGP and LACP?

A: Both PAGP and LACP have similar modes for negotiation: “auto” and “desirable” for PAGP and “passive” and “active” for LACP. These modes dictate how the negotiation process takes place for forming EtherChannels.

Q: Can I configure an EtherChannel to work with both PAGP and LACP at the same time?

A: No, each port channel must be dedicated to either PAGP or LACP. Mixing the protocols on the same EtherChannel is not supported.

Q: If I have a stack of switches, can I form an EtherChannel across the stack using PAGP or LACP?

A: LACP allows for the formation of an EtherChannel across a stack of switches, whereas PAGP does not support the negotiation of cross-stack EtherChannels. Therefore, LACP would be the preferred choice in this scenario.

Q: Can I use PAGP or LACP to negotiate an EtherChannel with a port on a remote switch?

A: Yes, both PAGP and LACP can negotiate an EtherChannel with a port on a remote switch, as long as the remote port is configured with the corresponding protocol and mode.

Q: What are the benefits of using PAGP or LACP to form EtherChannels?

A: Using either PAGP or LACP ensures that the EtherChannel technology is used to combine multiple physical links into a single logical link, providing increased bandwidth and redundancy. This leads to improved network performance and fault tolerance.


  1. GeeksforGeeks: LACP vs PAGP: What’s the Difference?: This article provides a comparison between LACP and PAGP protocols, explaining that LACP is an IEEE standard, while PAGP is a Cisco proprietary protocol.
  2. QSFPTEK: LACP vs PAGP: What is the Difference?: This post discusses the use of both LACP and PAGP as negotiation protocols in configuring EtherChannel for link redundancy in network devices.
  3. Cisco Community: EtherChannel PaGP VS LACP: A community discussion that compares PAGP and LACP, noting the requirement for Cisco devices on both ends when using PAGP.
  4. Quora: What is the difference between LACP and PAGP protocol?: An answer to a question about the differences between LACP and PAGP, highlighting LACP’s vendor neutrality.
  5. IP With Ease: PAGP vs LACP – Difference b/w PAGP & LACP Explained: This source delves into the differences between PAGP and LACP, discussing the proprietary nature of PAGP and the open standard of LACP.
  6. CablesAndKits: LACP vs PAGP: This learning resource discusses the differences between LACP and PAGP, mainly focusing on their proprietary aspects and modes.
  7. LearnCisco: EtherChannel Load Balancing | LACP vs. PAgP: This article provides an understanding of EtherChannel load balancing and leans towards a standardized approach when comparing PAGP and LACP.
  8. Reddit: What are the differences between EtherChannel “on,” LACP, and PAGP?: A thread that discusses the differences between static Etherchannel, LACP, and PAGP. It includes real-world experiences and advice from network professionals.
  9. Network World: Link Aggregation (LAG) for Redundancy and Load Sharing: An article that explains link aggregation, including LACP and PAGP, in terms of redundancy and load sharing.
  10. IEEE Xplore: IEEE 802.3ad-2000 – IEEE Standard for Information Technology: The official IEEE standard document for LACP protocol. It provides a technical and detailed explanation of LACP.