Control Plane

Definition of Control Plane

The control plane, in the context of networking and telecommunications, refers to the part of a system that manages and controls the overall operation of the network. It is responsible for determining how data, or the data plane, flows through the network by establishing the necessary routes and paths. In essence, the control plane manages the network’s configuration and maintains its stability, allowing for smooth communication and data transfer.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Control Plane” is:kənˈtroʊl pleɪn

Key Takeaways

  1. Control Plane is responsible for managing network configuration and resource allocation in order to maintain seamless communication between the components in a distributed system.
  2. It makes use of various protocols, such as routing protocols and management protocols, to manage and maintain services, support fault tolerance, and ensure optimum performance.
  3. Control Plane works in conjunction with the Data Plane, which focuses on forwarding the actual data in the system, while the Control Plane primarily focuses on the decision-making process.

Importance of Control Plane

The technology term “Control Plane” is important as it refers to a critical component in networking and telecommunications systems that dictates the overall management and configuration of the network.

It deals with the establishment, maintenance, and termination of connections, ensuring efficient data transmission and communication between devices.

In essence, the control plane separates the processes that govern network decision-making from the actual data flow (data plane), allowing resources to be optimally utilized for their respective tasks.

This separation facilitates scalability, security, and streamlined network management, which are essential for providing stable, high-quality, and reliable network performance.


The primary purpose of the Control Plane is to facilitate efficient communication and management of network functions by establishing a separate layer in a network architecture for the decision-making process. It plays a critical role in determining how to utilize available resources to transmit data across networks, ensuring that the process adheres to predefined policies and is executed in an optimized manner.

As part of the network infrastructure, the Control Plane is responsible for tasks such as routing, signaling, and establishing paths for data forwarding, which in turn contributes to the overall stability and productivity of the network. Control Plane’s strategic placement within a network allows administrators to manage and monitor vital network components centrally, enabling them to respond quickly to changing requirements or potential issues.

By automating the network’s decision-making process, the Control Plane helps to maintain system performance, prevent bottlenecks, and manage the ever-growing complexity of networking technologies. It is particularly prevalent in software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV), which heavily rely on the Control Plane’s capability to configure, control, and manage virtualized network components in real-time.

In conclusion, the Control Plane serves as the backbone of modern networking environments by optimizing the flow of data and ensuring seamless communication throughout the network infrastructure.

Examples of Control Plane

Control Plane broadly refers to the set of mechanisms and protocols that are responsible for managing and controlling various aspects of a network or system. Here are three real-world examples of technologies involving control planes:

Software-Defined Networking (SDN) Control Plane: SDN separates the control plane from the data plane in a network to enable more flexible and centralized control of the network devices. In an SDN system, the control plane is responsible for making decisions on how the data packets should be forwarded and disseminated through network devices. One example of SDN technology is OpenFlow, which is an open standard that defines the communication between the control plane and the data plane, enabling the control plane to manage the flow of information on the network.

Cloud Management Platforms (CMPs): CMPs are software solutions that help organizations manage their resources across multiple cloud environments. The CMP control plane is responsible for the orchestration of various cloud services and components, such as virtual machines, storage, and networking. This allows administrators to manage and control these cloud resources in a centralized and unified manner, making it easier to ensure security, consistency, and compliance across the organization’s cloud infrastructure. Examples of CMPs include VMware vRealize Suite, IBM Cloud Orchestrator, and Cisco CloudCenter.

Kubernetes: Kubernetes is a container orchestration platform that automates the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. In the context of Kubernetes, the control plane refers to the set of components responsible for maintaining the overall state of the cluster and ensuring smooth execution of container-based workloads. The Kubernetes control plane consists of several components, such as the API server, etcd datastore, and controller manager, which work together to manage the containers and their underlying infrastructure. This allows developers and operators to focus on writing and deploying their applications while Kubernetes takes care of ensuring their availability and fault tolerance.

Control Plane FAQ

What is Control Plane?

The Control Plane is a crucial component of a network architecture that is responsible for managing network devices and forwarding plane components. It consists of various protocols and processes that ensure proper communication, configuration, and status management between devices within the network.

What is the main function of the Control Plane?

The primary function of the Control Plane is to manage, control, and maintain the network infrastructure. This includes routing, setting up and maintaining network connections, making topology changes, and monitoring network performance and health.

How does the Control Plane differentiate from the Data Plane?

The Control Plane is primarily responsible for managing and maintaining the network infrastructure, while the Data Plane is responsible for the actual forwarding of data packets between network devices. In simple terms, the Control Plane decides how data should be transported, while the Data Plane moves the data based on those decisions.

What are some examples of protocols used in the Control Plane?

Some common protocols used in the Control Plane include Open Shortest Path First (OSPF), Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), Routing Information Protocol (RIP), and Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP). These protocols are responsible for various aspects of network management and communication.

Why is the Control Plane important?

The Control Plane is vital in maintaining an efficient and reliable network as it manages the overall network infrastructure. Without a properly functioning Control Plane, the network would be unable to route and forward data packets effectively, leading to poor communication, frequent network disruptions, and even network failure.

Related Technology Terms

  • Routing Protocol
  • Software-Defined Networking (SDN)
  • Network Function Virtualization (NFV)
  • Application Programming Interface (API)
  • Network Orchestration

Sources for More Information


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