Core Switch vs Normal Switch: What Is the Difference?

In enterprise network, network switch is always an indispensable component. Thus locating right switches in your three-layer architecture is the first step to set up a reliable hierarchical internetworking model. As we know, there are normal access/edge layer switch, aggregation/distribution layer switch and core layer switch. In my last post – What Is Distribution Switch and Why Do We Need it? – the role of distribution switch functioning multiple switch aggregation and inter-VLAN routing has been illustrated. Today we will introduce core switch and what’s the difference between core switch vs normal switch.

What Is Core Switch?

Core switch occupies in the topside layer of the enterprise networking (core layer), which functions as backbone switch for LAN access and centralizes multiple aggregation to the core. Since other 2 lower layers rely upon it, core layer switch must be a highly redundant and powerful layer 3 switch to ensure efficient high-speed and reliable data transmission. One feature on its hardware is that core switch is often a fiber switch to match with high-speed fiber optic cables and fiber optic transceiver modules. In the core layer, switching is ending and routing is beginning. Core switch is also equipped with layer 3 routing features, thus it kills two birds with one stone.

Core switch normal port speed is at least 10Gbps to handle high traffic on the uplink. Say FS S5900-24S 24 Port 10GE SFP+ stackable managed switch. This fully managed fiber 10GbE switch supports a wide range of layer2/3, inter-VLAN routing, MPLS, QoS and many other high-end functionality, natural fit for core layer networking. The switch stacking technology allows you to control the single stack to expand network capacity.

S5900-24S 24 port 10GbE fiber switch ideal for core switch

Figure 1: FS S5900-24S 24 port 10GbE fiber switch is a routing Ethernet core switch with high-performance, high-security, and switch stacking technology, expanding your network to 418Gbps.

What Is Normal Switch?

What we mentioned normal switch is often an edge switch/access switch in the access layer of enterprise network. Or in cases where network topology is not involved such as small office and home environment, normal switches may be used solely to connect end devices. Such access switch in the market often comes with copper switch with a few SFP/SFP+ port. Say S2800-24T4F fanless gigabit managed 24 port switch with 4 combo SFP slots. This quiet energy-saving access switch with abundant ports is ideal for SMBs, labs, schools and other places requiring silent operation. To provide PoE for your PDs, gigabit PoE switch is also widely used as access switch for IP surveillance cameras, VoIP phones and WAPs.

S2800-24T4F fanless 24 port gigabit switch as edge switch rather than core switch

Figure 2: FS recommends S2800-24T4F 24 port gigabit switch for your access layer to ensure quiet and reliable operation.

Core Switch vs Edge Switch: What Is the Difference?

  • Network Layer Location

Core switch is a powerful backbone switch in the central of the network core layer, which centralizes multiple aggregation switches to the core and implements LAN routing. Normal edge switch is in access layer to directly connect multiple end devices.

  • Hardware and Software Feature

What makes a best core switch? A core witch often comes with optimized hardware and software design. A remarkable feature is owning redundancy in configurations such as ports, power and PSU. A core backbone switch is also a layer 3 switch with internal firewall capability as part of its routing functionality. A normal edge switch usually doesn’t require such high demands. Actually it may even not a managed switch in simple end user connection.

core switch vs edge switch deployment scenario

Figure 3: Deploying FS 10G fiber switch as core switch, gigabit PoE switches for PDs and gigabit 48 port switches as access switches.

Conclusion

Core switch is a fatal component in enterprise network core layer, which functions both switching and routing. Compared core switch vs edge switch, core layer switch owns advanced features in hardware and software to cater for high-end applications. Though core switch price is higher than a normal switch, deploying best core switches in the core layer is a must to ensure a reliable backbone. FS provides cost-effective core switch and enterprise network solutions for different applications. Any other information to know, you can visit our official website and blog.

What Is Distribution Switch and Why Do We Need It?

We know that in data centers a three-layer hierarchical model contains core layer, aggregation/distribution layer and access layer. In this network topology, corresponding network switch is implemented in different network layer. A core switch is a high-capacity backbone switch, which locates in the topside for WAN access and centralizing multiple aggregations in the core. Thus backbone core layer switch is often a fiber switch for advanced optical link. An access switch or an edge switch is for direct end devices and hierarchy connection. But what is distribution switch? What are the functions of distribution layer switch? And what’s the difference between aggregation switch vs core switch and distribution switch vs router? This article may help.

what is distribution switch and aggregation switch function

What Is Distribution Switch?

A distribution switch is a distribution layer switch, which uplinks to upper layer core switch and links down to the access/edge switch. Simply put, an aggregation switch in between functions a bridge between core layer switch and access layer switch. This is also the reason why we call distribution switch as aggregation switch.

Distribution Switch Functions

Why distribution layer switch is needed in network layers? In general, aggregation switch reacts on multiple switch aggregation and layer 3 routing functionality. It also supports complex policy implementation such as QoS and packet filtering. Highlights, distribution switch employs Access Control Lists (ACL) to offer optimized security policies. This security capability enables aggregation switch to decide which traffic can be permitted for communication. Here we illustrate the necessities of distribution layer switch into details by comparing it to other switches and routers.

  • Distribution Switch vs Access Switch

Usually we employ gigabit Ethernet switch in access layer 2 to run at 1Gb. When traffic driving from a layer 2 switch, the network topology requires a device with layer 3 features to process it to VLANs. Aggregation switch is often a layer 3 switch, so it supports inter-VLAN routing over a layer 2 switch. When multiple access switches among different VLANs are required to be aggregated, a distribution switch can achieve inter-VLAN communication.

  • Core Switch vs Distribution Switch

For core switch vs aggregation switch, one question may come in mind: why not directly connecting access switch to the core switch? An important reason is for convenient network access. When there are dozens of clients spreading over different offices in 5 buildings, we can deploy a distribution layer 10GbE switch in the center of each building to connect multiple access layer gigabit Ethernet switches in different offices. Then the 5 distribution switches can easily link to a 40GbE core switch in data centers. There are cases of combining collapsed distribution and core into one when there are only several severs and end users. We also call such switch as collapsed core or collapsed backbone since distribution layer switch is combined.

using fs 10GbE switch as distribution switch

Figure 1: Deploying FS S5800-48S6Q 10GbE switch with 6 40G QSFP+ uplinks as distribution switch in three-layer hierarchical model.

  • Distribution Switch vs Router

Generally, both a router and distribution layer switch has layer 3 routing functionality. But there is some distinctions. Compared to layer 3 switch/multilayer switch, a router has full layer 3 features and intact routing functionality like Internet Service Provider (ISP) and WAN. A aggregation switch combines layer 2 switching technology with layer 3 routing technology in one hardware. So a layer 3 distribution switch owns edges over router as switch while possessing inter-VLAN routing functionality. Besides, as a router a layer 3 distribution switch can route packets more quickly than a router due to functionality to make cache entry in its fast memory.

deploy layer 3 switch distribution switch over layer 2 switch and routers

Figure 2: Scenarios to deploy layer 3 switch – distribution switch over layer 2 switch and routers.

Conclusion

Despite advanced features of policy-based network connection, distribution layer switch functions aggregation and routing. As an aggregation switch, distribution switch connects multiple access switches and centralizes them to core switch. As a layer 3 switch, distribution switch adds routing functionality to achieve fast and easy inter-VLAN routing communication. As thus distribution switch deployment changes the situation that subnet must relay on router to manage network. And solves the issue of low speed and complexity caused by traditional routers.

What Is the Best Way to Connect Multiple Ethernet Switch?

In the big data era, gigabit Ethernet switch with high capacity has gradually penetrated from big enterprises, SMB to small offices and homes. Newly emerged technology like WIFI is also driving the proliferation of wireless APs and other applications. Therefore the Ethernet topology requires for a comprehensive integration of various devices like firewall, servers, routers and multiple Ethernet switches. How to connect multiple managed switches together? Can I simply connect network switch one by one? Does daisy-chaining switch make sense? Or should I stack switch with stackable switch to set up a switch stack? What’s the best method to connect several data switches together?

waht is the best way to connect multiple Ethernet switch

Solution 1: Cascade Switch to Connect Multiple Ethernet Switch

Switch cascade is a traditional way to connect multiple Ethernet switches, which comes with various methods and network topology under different requirements. Among them daisy chain topology and star topology are two common ways.

·Daisy Chain Topology – Daisy Chain Switch One by One

Daisy chain is a layout form to connect multiple Ethernet switches together in sequence or in a ring. A simple linear topology displays as A-B-C, in which you just daisy chain each network switch top to bottom. For no more than 3 Ethernet switches, a linear topology of daisy chaining is okay since there is no loop. However, it owns drawbacks in switch failure due to lacking redundancy. Once one network switch fails, the others will also be dragged in. A simple ring topology is A-B-C-A, which can provide redundancy in link failure. However, simultaneously a loop creates when you finally daisy chain switch C back to A. Thus even only daisy chaining 3 Ethernet switches, an inevitable loop can be a fatal weakness.

Simply put, daisy chaining switch is error-proof and easily causes unnecessary low performance issues. Besides loop, a bottleneck creates in the chain and speed will slow down when traffic passing through the second Ethernet switch (since the link is heavily utilized). So daisy chaining switch is not recommended if scheme is optional. For simple home use or low demand networks, daisy chaining switches can make sense. But make sure your network switch support STP to deal with the loop issue.

daisy chain topology vs star topology for connecting multiple Ethernet switch

Figure 1: An illustration of daisy chain topology vs star topology for connecting multiple Ethernet switches.

·Star Topology – Link Access Switches to the Core

Compared to daisy chain topology, a physical star topology by deploying a powerful core switch to connect multiple access switches with uplinks is an optimal solution. For instance, connecting each gigabit switch via 10G SFP+ uplink to a central 10GbE switch. Or connecting a powerful gigabit Ethernet switch to each edge switches. In this scenario no loop occurs and all access switch is much closer to the central switch data center. For redundancy concern, you can also double or triple uplink each access switch to the core switch.

core Ethernet switch star topology by S3800-24T4S

Figure 2: Deploying a powerful gigabit Ethernet switch S3800-24T4S as core switch to connect edge switches, which forms a simple star topology.

Solution 2: Use Stackable Switch to Connect Multiple Ethernet Switch

Daisy chaining switch can be a solution when Ethernet switch quantity is small and separate placement is required in low demanding applications. How about an optimized way to connect multiple switches? Here comes stackable switch. Stackable switch deploys advanced stacking technology to achieve switch stacking, leaving out performance issues of clumsy daisy chaining topology like loops and bottlenecks.

To stack switch with managed stackable Ethernet switch can set up a switch stack, which works as a unified system with one console port for control to enhance network scalability and simplify network management. The port density and performance of switch stack can equal to expensive rack mount switch. Say stackable 24 port gigabit managed switch with 4 10Gb SFP+ uplinks: S3800-24T4S 1000Base-T copper switch and S3800-24F4S SFP switch. Both Ethernet switch supports up to 4 24 port switches stacked together, providing 96 1GbE port density and switching a total capacity of up to 512 Gbps. Also with single and dual power supply available, this 24 port gigabit managed switch offers redundancy in emergent power outage. To stack up S3800-24T4S 24 port switches with 10G SFP+ ports, you should connect them via SFP+ modules with fiber patch cable or via DAC or AOC directly.

stack switch by S3800-24T4S stackable Ethernet switch

Figure 3: Deploying S3800-24T4S stackable 24 port gigabit switch to stack switch.

What Is the Best Way to Connect Multiple Ethernet Switch?

To cascade network switch by daisy chaining topology or star topology is a simple way to connect multiple network switch. Daisy chaining switch is not recommended due to aforesaid performance issues like loop and bottleneck. However, it does make sense when a powerful core switch is absent. Otherwise to connect gigabit Ethernet switch with 10G uplink to a core 10GbE switch is a better solution to go.

Using stackable switch to stack switch leaves out loop and other link issues. However, it only be feasible among same stackable switch model or stackable switch from the same vendor. Also, all Ethernet switches shall be stacked together, so it doesn’t support separate placement.

Table below compares the pros and cons for connecting multiple network switches by daisy chaining switch and stacking switch. You can refer to your own demand for selecting the best way.

Item Daisy Chain Switch Stack switch
Placement Separate Centralized
Link Distance Long/Short Short
Switch Types Various switches from different vendors Same stackable switch only
Link port Normal/Uplink port Stacking port
Operation & Control Separate As one single switch
Performance Problem-prone: Loop, bottleneck Advanced Features

Conclusion

Traditional cascading Ethernet switch (daisy-chain topology or star topology) and advanced stacking switch are two ways for connecting multiple network switches. When both stackable switch and a powerful core switch is unavailable, problem-prone daisy chaining switch makes sense for low demanding applications. Otherwise you can deploy a 10GbE switch or powerful gigabit switch as core to connect each edge switch for better performance. Stack switch by stackable managed switch, deploying stacking technology as built-in software to connect multiple Ethernet switch is a must for enterprise-level networks. It leaves out low loop issues and simplifies control mechanism.

Mikrotik Switches Vs Cisco Switches

As a worldwide leader in IT and fiber optical networking, Cisco switches play a leading role in manufacturing network switches and in providing switching solutions for data center and enterprise networks with large and medium-size forms. MikroTik, a Latvian company which was founded in 1996 to develop routers and wireless ISP systems. Their cloud switches are highly favored by many Ethernet users in recent years. And thus, people are entangled with Cisco and Mikrotik switches. This article would give brief introduction to Cisco and Mikrotik switches, and put emphasis on Mikrotik Switches Vs Cisco Switches.

Cisco Switches

According to different usage, Cisco divided their switches into the following categories: LAN Access Switches, LAN Digital Building Switches, LAN Core and Distribution Switches, Data Center Switches, Service Provider Switches, Industrial Ethernet Switches, Virtual Networking and Small Business Switches. And every category has its switching series. The Cisco Catalyst series switch delivers ease of management and configuration for small to medium-sized enterprise wiring closets in a single system, without the need for additional modules. The following list is about the Cisco Catalyst series switch.

Cisco Catalyst series switch

Mikrotik Switches

Comparing to Cisco switches, the total amount of Mikrotik switches is much smaller. According to the official website of Mikrotik, there are only twelve Mikrotik switches. Ethernet smart switches and cloud core router switches are two series switches of Mikrotik switches. The cloud core switch, or cloud router switch, abbreviated as CRS, is a highly configurable switch, powered by RouterOS. They are the new products of Mokrotik switches. For the cloud router switch, there are nine models currently available. Here lists three different cases of the cloud core switch:

  • CRS125-24G-1S-2HnD-IN (integrated wireless, indoor case)
  • CRS125-24G-1S-IN (indoor case)
  • CRS125-24G-1S-RM (rackmount case)

Mikrotik Switches Vs Cisco Switches

—CPU

The CPU on both Cisco and Mikrotik switches is used for management purposes (snmp stats, cli management, etc) and it does not affect the data path. Switching is not done in CPU, neither on Cisco nor on Mikrotik. Switching is done on dedicated ASIC chips specifically designed for this job (thus giving wirespeed). So comparing the CPUs won’t mean much about forwarding performance – which is the metric you should care about.

—Power Consumption

One of big problems with Mikrotik switches is their power. The buyers would prefer to pay another couple hundred dollars to have dual power supplies that are removable. And thus, many Ethernet users cannot use Mikrotik in these cases. Comparing to Mikrotik switches, Cisco switches have less power consumption by their advanced technology.

—Network Monitoring Software Systems

Most network monitoring software systems natively understand, support and auto-detect Cisco devices and support Cisco SNMP OIDs (CPU, temp, load, bandwidth, errors, power supply status, and many other sub-system counters in a Cisco device.

When configuring your existing network monitor system(s), your network monitor system(s) may not even know what a Mikrotik is and probably does not have native built-in MIBs/OIDs used by SNMP to auto-check/monitor a network. Thus, an administrator would probably need to configure the Mikrotik graphic icons and configure all of the SNMP checks for MIBs/OIDs from/to a Mikrotik.

Mikrotik Switches Vs Cisco Switches: How to Select?

Mikrotik routers and switches are great. Most people like them and use them almost everywhere. However, because Mikrotik is still the new kid on the block when it comes to carrier-grade commercial-grade business grade high-throughput products, it may sometimes be a little difficult to find local network technicians or local phone support for Mikrotik products when adding new equipment into your network. So Cisco switch is more solid and people are more satisfied with them.

Cloud Core Switch—An Economic Choice for L3 Switch

MikroTik Switches have been popularly received favorable reviews, and this is inseparable with their keeping on the bleeding edge of switching technology. As a new member of MikroTik Smart Switch series, cloud core switch, also called cloud router switch, combing the best features of a fully functional router and a Layer 3 switch. That is to say, this cloud router switch works as both switch and router to connect the VLAN. This article would mainly discuss about cloud core switch, CRS226-24G-2S+RM switch and its connectivity solutions, as well as the reasons why they are economic choice for L3 switch.

About Cloud Core Switch

The cloud core switch, or cloud router switch, abbreviated as CRS, is a highly configurable switch, powered by RouterOS. It has 24 Gigabit Ethernet port. The Ethernet port 2-24 are switched, and the device can be accessed via these ports through the IP 192.168.88.1. Ethernet port 1 is configured as a DHCP client and has firewall on it. The SFP port is configured the same way as Ethernet 1, with a firewall and DHCP client on it. For the cloud router switch, there are nine models currently available. Here lists three different cases of the cloud core switch:

  • CRS125-24G-1S-2HnD-IN (integrated wireless, indoor case)
  • CRS125-24G-1S-IN (indoor case)
  • CRS125-24G-1S-RM (rackmount case)

MikroTik cloud router switch

Figure1: MikroTik cloud router switches(Resource: www.MikroTik.com)

Cloud Core Switch CRS226-24G-2S+RM

As one of the cloud core switches, CRS226-24G-2S+RM have been highly favored by most people. CRS226-24G-2S+RM is a fully functional layer 3 cloud router switch powered by Router OS, which is also available in 1U rackmount case. It comes with a special switch menu which includes all the specific configuration options for switches. It has 24 Gigabit ports and two SFP+ cages for 10G connectivity in which first SFP port supports 1.25G/10G modules and second port only 10G modules. Ports can be removed from the switch configuration and used for routing purposes if needed. The most distinctive feature of CRS226-24G-2S+RM is that uses a new class of switch chips, which allows us to have two SFP+ ports for 10G connectivity. The main features of this cloud core switch are listed in the following:

  • Fully manageable L3 switch, full wire speed switching
  • Configure ports as switch, or for routing
  • If required, full RouterOS power right there
  • SFP+ ports for 10G connectivity

CRS226-24G-2S+RM_big

Figure2: cloud core switch CRS226-24G-2S+RM(Resource: www.MikroTik.com)

Connectivity Solutions for CRS226-24G-2S+RM

As being mentioned, the cloud core switch CRS226-24G-2S+RM has 24 Gigabit ports and 2 SFP+ ports. For the twenty-four 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports, you could use both network cables and optical transceivers to connect. The transmission speed of Cat5 and Cat5e cables can be up to 100 Mb/s and 1G respectively. Besides, you can also use 10/100/1000BASE-T copper transceiver to make network connectivity. But it costs more than the network cables. In terms of 10G SFP+ ports, there are also two connectivity approaches. You can use both 10G SFP+ modules and 10G SFP+ DAC copper cable to connect. Relatively speaking, the 10G DAC cable is cheaper a lot than the 10G transceiver. But if transmission quality is your pursuit, and then 10GBASE SFP+ transceivers would be a good choice.

Why Are Cloud Core Switches Economic Choice for L3 Switch?

According to the above description, cloud core switches are powered by Router OS. RouterOS lets you add upper layer functionality. The cloud core switch is very far below wire speed when doing layer 3 or above. In fact, the cloud core switch is more of a bare-bones layer 2 switch that has an embedded low-horsepower router. In short, the switch features are useful for making bridges that work at wire speed, but they’re limited to simple forwarding and vlan handling. The bridge feature lets you glue almost anything together, and gives lots of filtering/manipulation tools, but it cannot perform at wire speed because it uses the main CPU. Last but not least, the average prices of Mikro Tik cloud core switches are not more than $150, you can check them by this link.

Conclusion

Cloud core/router Switch is a managed switch that runs RouterOS and SwitchOS, which delivers a high performance as a Layer 3 switch. They allow to manage port-to-port forwarding, apply MAC filter, configure VLANs, mirror traffic, apply bandwidth limitation and even adjust some MAC and IP header fields. The economic L3 switch including several switch models covering wide range applications, like enterprise network and home network.