Christmas Offer - Every Learner Must Check Out - Flat 88% OFF on All Access Pass
PyNet Labs- Network Automation Specialists

Difference between Control Plane and Data Plane

Author : PyNet Labs
Last Modified: January 23, 2024 
Difference between Control Plane and Data Plane Featured Image


The control plane and data plane are integral parts of a network. Each plane performs specific functions and responsibilities to ensure efficient packet flow within the network. Understanding the basic difference between the two is crucial for effectively designing and optimizing networks that further assist in enhancing performance as well as security.

In this blog, we will discuss both planes in detail and the major difference, i.e., Control Plane vs Data Plane.

Before getting into more details, let’s first understand the basic difference between the control plane and the data plane.

Control Plane vs Data Plane

The basic difference between the Control plane and data plane has been explained below in tabular form.

FactorsControl PlaneData Plane
FocusRouting logicPacket forwarding
FunctionDetermines the best path for each packetMoves packets from input to output ports
Operating LayerThe control plane operates at the Network layer (Layer 3)Data Plane operates at the Data link layer (Layer 2)
Protocols UsedUses protocols such as BGP, OSPF, EIGRP, IS-IS, etc. to exchange routing information with other routers.Uses protocols such as IP, TCP, UDP, etc. to encapsulate and transport data packets.
IndependencePerforms its task independentlyPerforms its task depending on the control plane
ExampleBGP neighbor relationship, SSH to a routerPassing SSH traffic, forwarding BGP traffic.

We have seen the major difference between the two; now, let’s understand the control plane and data plane in detail.

What is Control Plane?

Simply put, a network’s “brain” is located in its Control Plane. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that this plane is the more crucial of the two.

The Control Plane is responsible for managing the traffic that is either generated by the router or received by the router for its purposes, such as SSH requests. It is responsible for managing the traffic related to the routing protocol between routers. The Control Plane of the router collects all of these messages and uses them to create a routing table.

The Control Plane utilizes the router’s central processing unit to carry out the operations mentioned above.

What is Data Plane?

The data plane is sometimes also known as the messenger of the network. The router component i.e., the data plane is responsible for identifying incoming data packets and directing them to the appropriate output destination on the network is known as the data plane. The Data Plane’s operation completely depends on the Control Plane.

The data plane must be a fast, low-delay channel. In order to accomplish this, a significant portion of the data plane implementation is executed in hardware. This is done via the use of specialized ASICs and CEF lookups/caching. Data plane components include the FIB and LFIB.

Note: Different rules apply to virtual switches. There is often no specialized gear available to provide a rapid data flow. This does not imply that they lack a data plane. The pathway can be made easier by the use of software approaches, such as customized data structures and optimized kernels.

Now that we have a basic understanding of the control plane and data plane. Let’s understand the major difference between the two in detail.

Difference Between Control plane and Data plane

Below we have explained the major difference in detail. Let’s Begin!

Purpose and Function

The main purpose of the control plane includes network management and network control, as well as how data packet transmission is carried out. A control plane’s primary functions are as follows:

  • Creating route tables
  • Keeping track of the routing tables
  • Policy formation for network protection
  • Identifying the best routes to take
  • Developing and managing network topology
  • Checking the Status of a Network

On the other hand, the data plane is responsible for sending data packets to their right destination inside a network. Some of the primary functions of the data plane are:

  • Obtaining and examining data packets
  • Forwarding data packets to their intended recipients
  • Ensuring that data packets are delivered correctly
  • Data packets are demultiplexed
  • Detection of packet errors

Operating Layer

The control plane is implemented in layer 3 (the network layer). The control plane operates at a higher level than that of the data plane and performs functions like routing and route determination. The control plane is responsible for layer 3 functions, such as device setup, routing, and determining the most efficient route for data transmission.

When we talk about the data plane, it is implemented at layer 2 (data link layer). The data plane at layer 2 is responsible for the fundamental operations of precise data packet forwarding. Hardware implementation of the data plane is a viable option for achieving high performance and low latency. Software implementation is also possible, particularly in SDN environments.

Protocols Used

The control plane uses various networking protocols that are compatible with layer 3 of the OSI model. Here is a list of popular protocols that the control plane uses.

The data plane employs various protocols that are compatible with layer 2 of the OSI model. The data plane often uses the following protocols.

These are the major differences between Control plane and Data plane explained in detail. Data Plane and Control plane are both Components of SD-WAN, which can be learnt in depth with PyNet Labs’ SD-WAN online Training.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1 – What is the difference between data plane and control plane in EKS?

The Kubernetes components that manage the cluster are executed on the control plane, while the worker nodes that execute your workloads make up the data plane.

Q2 – What is the difference between control plane and data plane in AWS?

The control plane is the part of AWS that manages the configuration and operation of resources, such as creating and deleting instances, buckets, or tables. The data plane is part of AWS that handles the actual data transfer, storage, and processing, such as uploading and downloading files, sending and receiving messages, or querying and scanning tables.

Q3 – What is the data plane?

The data plane is an integral part of the network through which packets are transmitted inside a network.

Q4 – Why separate control plane and data plane?

One of the main reasons to separate the control plane and data plane is to achieve better scalability and performance.


A network’s Control plane and Data plane work together to guarantee smooth data transfer. Network management and administration are the responsibility of the control plane, while packet routing is the responsibility of the data plane. In this blog, we have explained both the planes in detail as well their basic differences.

Recent Blog Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram