Layer 2 vs. Layer 3 Switches: Which One Is Right for Your Network?

Layer 2 vs. Layer 3 Switches: Which One Is Right for Your Network?

Although Layer 2 and Layer 3 switches are frequently used for LAN/WAN infrastructure, they function differently and operate at various OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model layers.

Lets see about Layer 2 and Layer 3 switches and how they are placed in the OSI reference model of Data layering as shown below

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Layer 2 vs. Layer 3 Switches
Fig 1.1- Layer 2 vs. Layer 3 Switches

⭐ Layer 2 Switches πŸ”„

Layer 2 switches are classic network switches that function at the network data link layer, often known as "layer 2" of the OSI model of network connectivity. These switches forward data packets depending on the MAC addresses defined inside the network's hardware layer.

Layer 2 switches are extremely efficient since no changes to the frame are necessary. The packet encapsulation changes only when the data packet travels via different medium (for example, from Ethernet to FDDI). Layer 2 switches are used to link workgroups and segment networks (breaking up collision domains).

Layer 2 switches can perform fast data frame forwarding since they do not need to decapsulate and encapsulate the data frames. It merely has to discover the port in the address table that corresponds to the target MAC address and then transmit the data frame out of that port.

Each port on a Layer 2 switch can be treated as an isolated conflict region, decreasing collisions and retransmissions of data frames and enhancing network performance. Layer 2 switches can provide virtual LAN (VLAN) segmentation. The segmentation and administration of separate logical networks can be accomplished by adding VLAN identities to data packets.

⭐ Layer 3 Switches πŸ”„

A layer 3 switch, also known as a multilayer switch, may perform all of the functions of a layer 2 switch as well as extra static and dynamic routing. That is, a Layer 3 switch contains a MAC address table as well as an IP routing table and supports intra-VLAN communication as well as packet routing between VLANs. 

Layer 3 switches, in addition to routing packets, provide functionalities that involve understanding the IP address information of data entering the switch, such as tagging VLAN traffic based on IP address rather than manually establishing a port. Layer 3 switches' power and security are upgraded as needed.

Each port on a Layer 3 switch can be treated as its own broadcast domain, decreasing the impact of broadcast storms on network performance and boosting network security.

Layer 3 switches can support a variety of routing protocols (including RIP, OSPF, BGP, and others) to enable dynamic routing updates and choices with other routers or layer 3 switches, boosting network dependability and flexibility.

Layer 3 switches can offer policy routing depending on source IP address, destination IP address, protocol type, and other criteria, allowing for varied processing or forwarding of data packets of varying sorts or priorities and thereby enhancing network efficiency and quality.

⭐ Layer 2 Vs. Layer 3 Switches πŸ”„

Layer 2 and Layer 3 switches are determined by the network's unique requirements and scalability. Layer 2 switches are simpler and less expensive for basic LAN connectivity, but Layer 3 switches offer routing capabilities to more complicated network designs.

Check out the main difference between Layer 2 and Layer 3 switches with their core actions in the network layer of OSI model.

Layer 2 Vs. Layer 3 Switches

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