What Are the Different Types of Network Switches

What Are the Different Types of Network Switches

A network switch is a multiport network bridge that uses MAC addresses to forward data at the OSI model’s data link layer (layer 2). By incorporating routing functionality, some switches can also forward data to the network layer (layer 3). Layer-3 switches or multilayer switches are common names for such switches.

Ethernet switches are the most common type of network switch. Mark Kempf, an engineer in Digital Equipment Corporation’s Networking Advanced Development group, invented the first MAC Bridge[3][4][5] in 1983. Shortly after, that company released its first two-port bridge product (LANBridge 100). Following that, the company created multi-port switches for both Ethernet and FDDI, such as GigaSwitch. Digital made the decision to license its MAC Bridge patent.

A network switch (also known as a switching hub, bridging hub, or MAC bridge[1] by the IEEE) is a piece of networking hardware that connects devices on a computer network by using packet switching to receive and forward data to the destination device.
A network switch learns the identities of connected devices and then only forwards data to the port connected to the device to which it is addressed, as opposed to repeater hubs, which broadcast the same data out of each port and allow the devices to pick out the data addressed to them.

Choosing the right switches for your small business

Understanding the different types of network switches will help you find the best solution to meet your changing business needs. As you consider your options, consider the switch categories as well as specific switch benefits.

Role in a network

Built-in or modular interfaces in commercial switches enable the connection of various networks, including Ethernet, Fibre Channel, RapidIO, ATM, ITU-T G.hn, and 802.11. This connectivity can occur at any of the previously mentioned layers. While layer-2 functionality is sufficient for bandwidth shifting within a single technology, interconnecting technologies such as Ethernet and Token Ring are more easily accomplished at layer 3 or via routing. [10] Routers are traditional devices that interconnect at the layer 3 levels.

Where there is a need for extensive network performance and security analysis, switches can be connected between WAN routers as locations for analytic modules. Some vendors sell firewall, network intrusion detection, and performance analysis modules that plug into switch ports. Some

Types of Switches

Modular switches vs. fixed-configuration switches

Switches are classified into two types: modular and fixed configuration. There are differences between these network switch categories, but the basic definition of each remains the same.

Modular switches

Modular switches allow you to add expansion modules as needed, providing flexibility as network needs change. Application-specific expansion modules include firewalls, wireless connectivity, and network analysis. They may also support extra interfaces, power supplies, or cooling fans. This switch gives you the most flexibility, but at a higher cost.

Fixed-configuration switches

Fixed-configuration switches have a fixed number of ports and are typically not expandable, making them less expensive in the long run. Unmanaged switches, smart switches, and managed switches are all examples of fixed-configuration switches.

Unmanaged switches

Unmanaged switches are commonly used for basic connectivity. They are designed to be plug-and-play, requiring no configuration. When only basic switching and connectivity are required, unmanaged switches are the most effective. They are commonly found in home networks or where only a few ports are required, such as at a desk, in a lab, or in a conference room.

Although some unmanaged switches provide limited advanced capabilities, as the name implies, these switches cannot be modified or managed.

Smart switches

Smart switches provide some management and segmentation, quality of service, and security capabilities, making them a less expensive alternative to modular switches. They are, however, not as scalable as managed switches. These switches are typically used at the edge of a large network (whereas managed switches are used in the core), as the infrastructure for smaller networks, or for networks with low complexity.

Managed switches

Managed switches are designed to provide the most comprehensive set of features to provide the best application experience, the highest levels of security, the most precise network control and management, and the greatest scalability among fixed-configuration switches. As a result, managed switches are typically deployed in very large networks as aggregation/access switches or as core switches in smaller networks.

Managed switches are the most expensive fixed-configuration switch option, and they are most common in organizations with large or growing networks.

Feature Options

Four switch options to keep in mind

In addition to switch categories, consider network switch speeds, port count, power-over-Ethernet features, and stacking capabilities.

1Switch speeds

Switches come in a variety of throughputs or speeds, which are measured in megabits per second (Mbps). Fixed-configuration switches, for example, can provide Fast Ethernet (10/100 Mbps), Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000 Mbps), Ten Gigabit (10/100/1000/10000 Mbps), and even 40/100 Gbps (gigabits per second) speeds. The switching speed you select is determined by the type of throughput you require. If you need to move large data files on a regular basis, for example, a Gigabit Ethernet switch should be considered.

2Number of ports

The number of ports available in a switch, like a switching speed, can vary. The more ports you need, the larger your small business and the more network users you have. Fixed-configuration switches are typically available with five, eight, ten, sixteen, twenty-four, twenty-eight, forty-eight, forty-eight, forty-eight, forty-e

3Power over Ethernet (PoE) vs. non-PoE

PoE allows you to power a device, such as an IP phone, surveillance camera, or wireless access point, via the data cable. This allows you to place endpoints almost anywhere, even in difficult-to-reach areas. However, PoE switches are more expensive. Consider the devices you want to connect as you evaluate your options to see if PoE is required.

4Stackable vs. standalone switches

As your company (and network) expands, you will most likely need to support more and more devices, which will necessitate the purchase of additional switches. A standalone switch, as the name implies, is managed and configured as a separate entity with limited capacity. If a problem arises, troubleshooting is also switch-specific.
Stackable switches, on the other hand, can be connected to increase the capacity and availability of your network. You can treat the “stack” as a single unit rather than configuring, managing, and troubleshooting each switch individually. This means that if any part of the stack fails, the stack will route around the failure, allowing your network to continue to operate.

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