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What is a Switch?

Switch

A network switch or switching hub is a computer networking device that links network segments or network devices. The term commonly refers to a multi-port network bridge that processes and routes data at the data link layer (layer 2) of the OSI model. Switches that additionally process data at the network layer (layer 3) and above are often called layer-3 switches or multilayer switches.

Switches exist for various types of networks including Fibre Channel, Asynchronous Transfer Mode, InfiniBand, Ethernet and others.

A switch is a telecommunication device that receives a message from any device connected to it and then transmits the message only to the device for which the message was meant. This makes the switch a more intelligent device than a hub (which receives a message and then transmits it to all the other devices on its network). The network switch plays an integral part in most modern Ethernet local area networks (LANs). Mid-to-large sized LANs contain a number of linked managed switches. Small office/home office (SOHO) applications typically use a single switch, or an all-purpose converged device such as a residential gateway to access small office/home broadband services such as DSL or cable Internet. In most of these cases, the end-user device contains a router and components that interface to the particular physical broadband technology. User devices may also include a telephone interface for VoIP.

An Ethernet switch operates at the data link layer of the OSI model to create a separate collision domain for each switch port. With 4 computers (e.g., A, B, C, and D) on 4 switch ports, any pair (e.g. A and B) can transfer data back and forth while the other pair (e.g. C and D) also do so simultaneously, and the two conversations will not interfere with one another. In full duplex mode, these pairs can also overlap (e.g. A transmits to B, simultaneously B to C, and so on). In the case of a repeater hub, they would all share the bandwidth and run in half duplex, resulting in collisions, which would then necessitate retransmissions.

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