Friday, September 30, 2011

Level 3 Switches (or L3)

Level 3 Switches (or L3) are devices used for networking and routing. They are rated as being high-performance and cost effective devices. Some of you might be confused by the name because Layer 3 of the OSI model is usually used by routers and Layer 2 by switches Here are a couple of important characteristics of the L3 Switches:
  • Compact design which can easily be fitted in any rack designed to house such network equipment
  • Silent because there are only a couple of models that use a fan, most of the L3 Switches do not need such cooling systems
  • Highly efficient due to the awareness of IP multicast
  • Usually comes at a lower cost as compared to other types of routers
L3 switches are very common because of the above mentioned characteristic, but the most important benefit that it can provide with is the IP multicast awareness. This feature is very useful because it does not waste the bandwidth of the network by distributing the signal to all ports. The switch is able to detect the ports that require the signal to be transmitted and only sends it to those ports. To make it easier to understand, it would be very similar to sending and SMS to your entire contact list, even if 50 percent of the numbers there are not valid anymore. So, you would be wasting money by doing that.
Ok, let’s see what type of hardware the L3 switches use. In simple terms, the hardware you can find in this type of switches is a combination of routers and switches, but the software logic part of the router is replaced with a hardware version to make sure that performance is at it’s best.
You can probably see that the L3 Switches have the same external design as the other types of switches and routers, with ports at the back and LED lights at the front. The Ethernet ports are used to connect the cables to the switch and the LED lights can indicate a series of functions and other information about the functioning of the switch.
Another difference between the L3 Switches and the traditional router would be the lack of the WAN port and other wide area network features that you can see implemented in all normal routers. What does this mean? This means that you can only use L3 switches in specific applications. In some cases, companies outright discard routers and use these kind of switches. This is due to the primary fact that a switch integrates better with the proxy servers implemented in the company network.

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