Switch form factors

There are various types of switches used in business networks. It is important to deploy the appropriate types of switches based on network requirements like;

  • Cost – The cost of a switch will depend on the number and speed of the interfaces, supported features, and expansion capability.
  • Port Density – Network switches must support the appropriate number of devices on the network.
  • Power – It is now common to power access points, IP phones, and even compact switches using Power over Ethernet (PoE). In addition to PoE considerations, some chassis-based switches support redundant power supplies.
  • Reliability – The switch should provide continuous access to the network.
  • Port Speed – The speed of the network connection is of primary concern to end users.
  • Frame Buffers – The ability of the switch to store frames is important in a network where there may be congested ports to servers or other areas of the network.
  • Scalability – The number of users on a network typically grows over time; therefore, the switch should provide the opportunity for growth.

This are the things that highlights common business considerations when selecting switch equipment. When selecting the type of switch, the network designer must choose between a fixed or a modular configuration, and stackable or non-stackable.

Fixed Configuration Switches

fixed switch

Fixed configuration switches do not support features or options beyond those that originally came with the switch. The particular model determines the features and options available. For example, a 24-port gigabit fixed switch cannot support additional ports. There are typically different configuration choices that vary in how many and what types of ports are included with a fixed configuration switch.

Modular Configuration Switches

modular switch

Modular configuration switches offer more flexibility in their configuration. Modular configuration switches typically come with different sized chassis that allow for the installation of different numbers of modular line cards . The line cards actually contain the ports. The line card fits into the switch chassis the way that expansion cards fit into a PC. The larger the chassis, the more modules it can support. There can be many different chassis sizes to choose from. A modular switch with a 24-port line card supports an additional 24 port line card, to bring the total number of ports up to 48.

Stackable Configuration Switches

stackable switch

Stackable configuration switches can be interconnected using a special cable that provides high-bandwidth throughput between the switches. Cisco StackWise technology allows the interconnection of up to nine switches. Switches can be stacked one on top of the other with cables connecting the switches in a daisy chain fashion. The stacked switches effectively operate as a single larger switch. Stackable switches are desirable where fault tolerance and bandwidth availability are critical and a modular switch is too costly to implement. Using cross-connected connections, the network can recover quickly if a single switch fails. Stackable switches use a special port for interconnections. Many Cisco stackable switches also support StackPower technology, which enables power sharing among stack members.

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