1. Science / Technology

Different types of network switches have unique characteristics

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Choosing the right switch for your data center can be a challenging task. This article will introduce how data center level switches can be developed in enterprises to provide flexibility and speed for new traffic flows.

Before deciding to purchase a switch for your data center, first determine what your network needs and where it is located. Network switches are divided into four basic categories: switches that are suitable for classic three-layer enterprise network models, and newer data center level switches that are currently mainly used by large enterprises and cloud providers heavily reliant on virtualization. These newer switches have density and performance characteristics and can be deployed throughout the entire data center, as well as fixed in two-layer (leaf ridge) or single-layer planar grids or structural architectures.

You may hear network administrators say, “A switch is a switch, no matter who makes it.” In some ways, this is true; In other aspects, it is not the case.

All switches have basic functions, including maintaining a Media Access Control (MAC) address to port table, which is used to intelligently forward frames from the correct port to the intended destination. All switches also use standard based protocols to segment traffic using the concepts of virtual local area networks, 802.1q relays, and 802.3ad port aggregation. They can also use one of the various variants of the 802.1d spanning tree protocol to prevent network loops.

But if you delve deeper, you will find that different types of switches have unique characteristics, and if used properly, it can better optimize the entire network. The simplest way to view these differences is to decompose them into the following traditional three-layer enterprise network design:

Core switch
Distributed switch
Access switch

Pay attention to the pyramid design of a three story building. The core switch is interconnected with other core switches, down to the distribution layer. The distribution layer is located between the core layer and the access layer. The access layer connects the entire structural join to terminal devices, such as computers, printers and servers.

For switches at different layers, tasks and workloads can be different. Although all network switches share common functions such as MAC tables, spanning trees, and relays, they also have proprietary functions that are only executed within that network layer.


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