How Does a Network Switch Work?

How Does a Network Switch Work?

Enterprise Networking Mag | Sunday, January 23, 2022

Switches connect network segments and provide full-duplex communication, crucial network performance data, and bandwidth utilization that is both efficient and effective.

Fremont, CA: Today, networks are vital for supporting businesses, providing communication, offering entertainment, and more. An essential element shared by all networks is the network switch, which connects devices for resource sharing. In addition to Ethernet, Fibre Channel, Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), and InfiniBand, switches are a basic network component. Despite this, ethernet is utilized by the majority of switches today.

How does a network switch work?

Once a device is connected to a switch, it records the device's media access control (MAC) address, which is a code baked into the device's network interface card (NIC) that connects to the switch through an ethernet wire. The switch utilizes the MAC address to determine which associated device is sending outgoing packets and where incoming packets should be delivered. Consequently, the MAC address identifies the physical device instead of the network layer (Layer 3) IP address, which is dynamically assigned and might vary over time.

When a device transmits a packet to another device, the packet enters the switch, which reads the packet's header to determine how to handle it. It matches the destination address and transmits the packet to the destination devices via the proper ports. To lessen the likelihood of collisions between network traffic traveling to and from a switch and a connected device simultaneously, the majority of switches offer full-duplex functionality, where packets arriving from and going to a device have access to the full bandwidth of the switch connection.

True, switches operate at Layer 2, but they can also operate at Layer 3, which is required to support virtual LANs (VLAN), which are logical network segments that can transcend subnets. For traffic to travel from one subnet to another, it must travel through switches, which is made possible by the routing capabilities incorporated into switches.

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