What is a network switch, and how does it work?
Modern enterprises rely heavily on networks to distribute business applications, multimedia messages, and essential data to global end-users. The network switch is a fundamental component shared by all networks, which facilitates device connectivity and resource sharing within a local area network (LAN).
As a network switch is an important component, you should understand everything about the same before investing in it. In this post, we will discuss what a network switch is and how it works.
Network switches: A brief introduction
A network switch is a hardware device that operates at Layer 2 of the OSI model and receives packets from connected devices through its physical ports, forwarding them to their intended destinations. Some switches can also operate at Layer 3, where routing takes place. Switches are a typical element of networks utilizing Ethernet, Fibre Channels, ATM, InfiniBand, and other technologies. Despite the various technologies available, most switches in use today utilize Ethernet.
Uses of network switches
- To make a connection with several different hosts
- To offload network traffic
- To optimize LAN bandwidth
- To populate the MAC address table
- To enable MAC filtering and other access control features
Types of network switches
These are the most basic type of switches available. They come with a fixed configuration and have limited options for users to choose from. They are typically plug-and-play devices and have default settings for features such as quality of service. However, these settings cannot be modified or changed by the user.
Unmanaged switches are relatively inexpensive. However, due to their lack of features, they are not suitable for most enterprise-level uses.
These switches are commonly used in business or enterprise settings. They offer more functionality and features compared to unmanaged switches. Managed switches can be configured through a command-line interface (CLI), and they also support simple network management protocol (SNMP) agents. This allows IT professionals to troubleshoot network problems more easily.
Managed switches also support virtual LANs, quality of service settings, and IP routing, making them more versatile. They have better security, which protects all types of traffic that they handle. Due to their advanced features, managed switches are more expensive than unmanaged switches.
Smart or intelligent switches
These types of switches offer more features than unmanaged switches but fewer than fully managed switches. They are more sophisticated than unmanaged switches but less expensive than fully managed switches.
Smart switches have web GUIs instead of CLIs and do not support telnet access. Although they offer options such as VLANs, these options may not have as many features as those offered by fully managed switches. Smart switches are a good fit for smaller companies with fewer financial resources or those with fewer feature needs.
These switches are used in data centers or other areas with a large number of servers. It provides a Keyboard, Video (monitor), and Mouse connection to multiple computers, allowing users to control groups of servers from a single location or console.
KVM switches can also allow for local and remote access to the machines by adding a KVM extender. This feature allows a company to centralize server maintenance and management.
The working module of network switches
A network switch can work in three different ways:
- As an edge switch– Also known as an access switch, an edge switch handles incoming and outgoing traffic in a network by connecting various devices, such as computers and access points.
- As an aggregation switch– This switch is located in an intermediary layer and connects edge switches to disseminate traffic from one switch to another or transmit it up to the core switches.
- As a core switch-The backbone of a network is made up of a core switch, which links edge and aggregation switches to networks at data centers, routers to organizational LANs, and device or consumer edge networks.
A device’s media access control (MAC) address is noted by a switch once the device is connected. The MAC address is a unique code that identifies the physical device and is fixed, while the network layer IP address can change dynamically over time. Similar to a car’s VIN and license plate, respectively.
The switch uses the MAC address to identify the device’s outgoing packets and where to send incoming packets. When a packet enters a switch, it reads the header and matches the destination addresses, sending the packet through the appropriate ports leading to the destination device(s).
To prevent collisions between network traffic, switches offer full-duplex functionality, allowing packets from and to a device to access the full bandwidth of the switch connection. Switches can operate at Layer 3, necessary to support virtual LANs (VLANs), which are logical network segments that can span subnets. To transfer traffic between subnets, it must pass through switches, facilitated by the routing capabilities built into switches.
What’s the importance of network switches in modern enterprises?
Switches are still important in modern enterprises as they enable wireless connectivity and support for Internet of Things (IoT) devices and smart buildings, leading to more sustainable operations. Industrial IoT devices connecting sensors and machinery in factories require switching technologies to connect back to enterprise networks.
Modern switches also offer Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology that can deliver up to 100W of power, allowing for the deployment of devices without requiring separate power outlets, such as security cameras, wireless access points, and sensors that monitor remote areas. Data collected from IoT devices can be applied to artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to optimize smarter environments.
The demand for network switches is constantly increasing and it’s expected to grow further. If you want to be ahead of your competitors, get the best switches for your organization from Gear Net Technologies. To know more about the product, please contact us through Whatsapp at +971585811786.