Stacking Technology vs MLAG Technology: What Sets Apart?

Businesses are growing and networks are becoming more complex. Single-device solutions are having trouble meeting the high availability and performance requirements of modern data centres. To address this, two horizontal virtualisation technologies have emerged: Stacking and Multichassis Link Aggregation Group (MLAG). This article compares Stacking and MLAG. It discusses their principles, features, advantages, and disadvantages. This comparison can help you choose the best option for your network environment.

Understanding Stacking Technology

Stacking technology involves combining multiple stackable devices into a single logical unit. Users can control and use multiple devices together, increasing ports and switching abilities while improving reliability with mutual backup between devices.

Advantages of Stacking:

  • Simplified Management: Managed via a single IP address, reducing management complexity. Administrators can configure and monitor the entire stack from one interface.
  • Increased Port Density: Combining multiple switches offers more ports, meeting the demands of large-scale networks.
  • Seamless Redundancy: If one stack member fails, others seamlessly take over, ensuring high network availability.
  • Enhanced Performance: Increased interconnect bandwidth among switches improves data exchange efficiency and performance.

Unlocking the Power of MLAG Technology

Multichassis Link Aggregation Group (MLAG) is a newer cross-device link aggregation technology. It allows two access switches to negotiate link aggregation as if they were one device. This cross-device link aggregation enhances reliability from the single-board level to the device level, making MLAG suitable for modern network topologies requiring redundancy and high availability.

Advantages of MLAG:

  • High Availability: Increases network availability by allowing smooth traffic transition between switches in case of failure. There are no single points of failure at the switch level.
  • Improved Bandwidth: Aggregating links across multiple switches significantly increases accessible bandwidth, beneficial for high-demand environments.
  • Load Balancing: Evenly distributes traffic across member links, preventing overloads and maximising network utilisation.
  • Compatibility and Scalability: Better compatibility and scalability, able to negotiate link aggregation with devices from different vendors.

Stacking vs. MLAG: Which Network Virtualisation Tech Reigns Supreme?

Both Stacking and MLAG are crucial for achieving redundant access and link redundancy, significantly enhancing the reliability and scalability of data centre networks. Despite their similarities, each has distinct advantages, disadvantages, and suitable application scenarios. Understanding the concepts and advantages of Stacking and MLAG is crucial. Here’s a detailed comparison to help you distinguish between the two:


Stacking: Centralised control plane shared by all switches, with the master switch managing the stack. Failure of the master switch can affect the entire system despite backup switches.

MLAG: Each switch operates with an independent control plane. Consequently, the failure of one switch does not impact the functionality of the other, effectively isolating fault domains and enhancing overall network reliability.

Configuration Complexity

Stacking: Appears as a single device logically, simplifying configuration and management.

MLAG: Requires individual configuration of each switch but can be simplified with modern management tools and automation scripts.


Stacking: Requires specialised stacking cables, adding hardware costs.

MLAG: Requires peer-link cables, which incur costs comparable to stacking cables.


Stacking: Performance may be limited by the master switch’s CPU load, affecting overall system performance.

MLAG: Each switch independently handles data forwarding, distributing CPU load and enhancing performance.

Upgrade Complexity

Stacking: Higher upgrade complexity, needing synchronised upgrades of all member devices, with longer operation times and higher risks.

MLAG: Lower upgrade complexity, allowing independent upgrades of each device, reducing complexity and risk.

Upgrade Downtime

Stacking: The duration of downtime varies between 20 seconds and 1 minute, contingent upon the traffic load.

MLAG: Minimal downtime, usually within seconds, with negligible impact.

Network Design

Stacking: Simpler design, appearing as a single device, easier to manage and design.

MLAG: More complex design, logically still two separate devices, requiring more planning and management.

Enhancing Display Networks: Stacking vs. MLAG Applications

This section explains how these technologies are used in real-world situations after learning about Stacking and MLAG differences. This will help you make informed decisions when setting up a network.

Stacking is suitable for small to medium-sized network environments that require simplified management and configuration and enhanced redundancy. It is widely used in enterprise campus networks and small to medium-sized data centres.

MLAG, on the other hand, is ideal for large data centres and high-density server access environments that require high availability and high performance. It offers redundancy and load balancing across devices. The choice between these technologies depends on the specific needs, scale, and complexity of your network.

In practical situations, Stacking and MLAG technologies can be combined to take advantage of their strengths. This creates a synergistic effect that is stronger than each technology individually. Stacking technology simplifies the network topology, increasing bandwidth and fault tolerance. MLAG technology provides redundancy and load balancing, enhancing network availability.

Therefore, consider integrating Stacking and MLAG technologies to achieve better network performance and reliability when designing and deploying enterprise networks.


Both Multichassis Link Aggregation (MLAG) and stackable switches offer unique advantages in modern network architectures. MLAG ensures backup and reliability with cross-switch link aggregation. Stackable switches allow for easy management and scalability by acting as one unit. Understanding the specific requirements and use cases of each technology is essential for designing resilient and efficient network infrastructures.

How FS Can Help

FS, a trusted global ICT products and solutions provider, offers a range of data centre switches to meet diverse enterprise needs. FS data centre switches support a variety of features and protocols, including stacking, MLAG, and VXLAN, making them suitable for diverse network construction. Customised solutions tailored to your requirements can assist with network upgrades. Visit the FS website to explore products and solutions that can help you build a high-performance network today.