Switch Features

Switch Form Factors:

What are the key features of switches that are used in hierarchical networks? When you look up the specifications for a switch, what do all of the acronyms and word phrases mean? What does "PoE" mean and what is "forwarding rate"? In this topic, you will learn about these features.
When you are selecting a switch, you need to decide between fixed configuration or modular configuration, and stackable or non-stackable. Another consideration is the thickness of the switch expressed in number of rack units. For example, the Fixed Configuration Switches shown in the figure are all 1 rack unit (1U). These options are sometimes referred to as switch form factors.
Fixed Configuration Switches
Fixed configuration switches are just as you might expect, fixed in their configuration. What that means is that you cannot add features or options to the switch beyond those that originally came with the switch. The particular model you purchase determines the features and options available. For example, if you purchase a 24-port gigabit fixed switch, you cannot add additional ports when you need them. There are typically different configuration choices that vary in how many and what types of ports are included.Modular Switches
Modular switches offer more flexibility in their configuration. Modular 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 like expansion cards fit into a PC. The larger the chassis, the more modules it can support. As you can see in the figure, there can be many different chassis sizes to choose from. If you bought a modular switch with a 24-port line card, you could easily add an additional 24 port line card, to bring the total number of ports up to 48.
Stackable Switches
Stackable switches can be interconnected using a special backplane cable that provides high-bandwidth throughput between the switches. Cisco introduced StackWise technology in one of its switch product lines. StackWise allows you to interconnect up to nine switches using fully redundant backplane connections. As you can see in the figure, switches are stacked one atop of the other, and cables connect the switches in 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 and do not use line ports for inter-switch connections. The speeds are also typically faster than using line ports for connection switches.


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