What is a network switch?
A switch is a networking device that connects your network (computers, printers, servers) together. Switches serve as a controller enabling networked devices to communicate with each other.
How do networked devices or appliances connect to each other?
Typical wired connections are via Ethernet network twisted-pair copper cable or fiber optic cabling. These connections have evolved from earlier specifications to more recent technology. (See network cabling) The newer installed copper supports 10/100/1000Mb/s (Megabit per second) to 1Gb/s (1 Gigabit per second) transmit speeds. Fiber is used in 1Gb/s connections but also Fibre Channel 8/4/2/1Gb, plus 10Gb, 40Gb, and new 100Gb Ethernet connections. For more information on Megabit vs. Gigabit transfer speeds, please reference transfer speeds.
Copper connections are typically direct from the switch or networked computing devices’ port. These connections are usually accomplished with an 8P8C connection, or commonly referred to as RJ-45 (“R.J. forty-five”) connection. For fiber interconnections the connection is through a GBIC (Gigabit Interface Converter), or the more commonly used smaller replacement for the GBIC, the mini-GBIC or SFP (Small Form-factor Pluggable) transceiver. The SFP is just the latest in the line of succeeding transceiver types each providing a more efficient and smaller form factor and speed specification. Transceivers are differentiated or categorized by interface type, speed/performance and connector or appropriate link connector for specified cabling.
All Axiom transceivers are covered under an industry guideline or multi-source agreement (MSA). MSA is a jointly developed and supported industry format that specifies how a switch, router, media converter or similar device interfaces with either fiber-optic or copper cable.
Switches can be categorized into two main groups, Unmanaged and Managed.
Unmanaged switches are designed to work right out of the box without any detailed configuration. The trade-off for this simple, easy-to-use feature is they typically have less capacity and are for entry-level applications.
Managed switches offer flexible configuration versus an unmanaged switch. They are typically more sophisticated, powerful, and provide a range of features and hardware options allowing the user and administrator greater control and modification based on the networking needs.
What is a router?
First a router is a network device that connects your network, (computer, printer, servers) to the Internet by “routing” data between the source and target network address. In an enterprise and business networking environment a router is a sophisticated device that provides integrated DHCP (protocol for unique IP address assignment) and firewall protection to securely receive and send packets of networking data. Routers for home networks, often call broadband routers are designed to connect the home LAN (local-area network) to the Internet or WAN, (wide-area network). Consumer routers are usually small tabletop devices that provide Internet connection without sophisticated firewall features and limited configuration for ease of installation.
How is a router different from a switch?
There can be some confusion between network switches and routers due to their similar functions. One very basic difference is that switches connect or provide interconnectivity between devices on your local network while routers provide connection between your LAN (local computer network), and to external networks via the Internet.
Why are switches so important in networking?
Switches allow any number of devices to work or be connected together. Although there are some limitations on connections, generally that is due to the level or limitations on the switch hardware. The base or entry-level switches provide easy to configure but limit features. However, enterprise or data center switch appliances can scale out to large amount of interconnects. Basic enterprise or corporate switches will allow dozens of devices to connect per switch.
Basic networking switch benefits:
- Allow dozens of devices to interconnect
- Keep network traffic (network/data packets) flowing efficiently and without data collisions or drops.
- Administration Control:
- Allow control of who has access to various parts of the network while al
- Allow for monitored usage
- Provide for internal network communication faster than Internet
- High-end switches provide scalable computing – hot pluggable transceivers to cost effectively expand with networking needs
Transceivers and they’re appeal.
The appeal of a hot-swappable transceiver opposed to a fixed physical interface is based on two major factors, cost and flexibility. Historically, networked devices and appliances had the transmit and receive capabilities built on the PCB (printed circuit board) level within the application or appliance hardware. With the ever-changing and sheer velocity of innovations, it became apparent that a module device or “transceiver” that allowed for scalable upgrades and flexible interface choice was needed.
Transceivers provide the administrator the ability to purchase and upgrade their network as needed, not in advance. Also they can interconnect different optical technologies with the specific type transceiver for each link.
What is a transceiver?
A transceiver is device that includes both the transmitter and receiver combined in a single unit or housing. Networking transceivers are a hot-swappable electrical interface that supports a wide range of physical media, from copper cabling to fiber optics.
What is a GBIC?
One of the first non-proprietary hot-swappable transceivers, its name is derived from gigabit interface converter or GBIC. They are still available and used, however have since been replaced by the SFP transceiver.
A smaller variation of the GBIC, this small form-factor pluggable transceiver (SFP) is commonly referred to as a mini-GBIC. Replaced the GBIC and although it has the same performance characteristics, valued for the space-saving housing.
SFP transceivers are designed to support multiple communication standards, include SONET, Fibre Channel, and Gigabit Ethernet (GbE). Due to the smaller size the SFP transceiver quickly replaced the gigabit interface converters (GBICs), as the most popular transceiver type. SFP transceivers remain the most popular transceiver and only the migration to 10Gb will erode its volume shipments. SFP form factors and electrical interface are specified by a multi-source agreement (MSA). MSA is a jointly developed and supported industry format that specifies how a switch, router, media converter or similar device interfaces with either fiber-optic or copper cable.
The XENPAK transceiver was one of the original transceivers delivering 10GB Ethernet. Initial support was strong however advances in networking technology provided more compact form factors for 10 Gigabit Ethernet applications. Although popular due to the XENPAK support multi-mode and single mode fiber optics and InfiniBand copper cables, XENPAK’s were quickly replaced with other even smaller form-factor technologies for high-density applications.
As 10 Gigabit based on the XENPAK transceiver with similar performance but with a form-factor half the size of the XENPAK, the X2 Transceiver was viewed as a better replacement for high-density applications.
X2 Transceivers continue to be utilized in CWDM applications.
Announced in 2002 and adopted in 2003, this XFP hot-swappable transceiver replaced the XENPAK and X2 due to its smaller form factor size prized in high-density server and switch applications. Provides 10 Gigabit interface for fiber cable applications and widely used to bring 10 Gigabit Ethernet, 10Gb Fibre Channel, Synchronous optical networking (SONET) at OC-192, Synchronous optical networking STM-64, and 10Gb Optical Transport Network (OTN). The physical dimensions of the XFP transceiver are slightly larger than the original small form-factor pluggable transceiver (SFP), however with the faster 10Gb transfer fell victim and was replaced by a younger slimmer enhanced SFP or SFP+ model.
Release in 2009 under MSA (Multi-source Agreement). The SFP provided the 10 Gigabit transfer speeds within a small form factor transceiver. Originally called enhanced small form-factor pluggable, more commonly known as “SFP+” supports 8 Gb/s Fibre Channel, 10GbE, and Optical Transport Network (OUT2). The SFP+ provides the best port density for space confined/high density applications and shares the same format of the SFP transceivers but with far greater transmit performance. The SFP+ transceiver remains the most popular 10Gb transceiver used in the rapidly converging world of high-speed network and communication