What Is Switch In Networking & How It Works?

Switching breaks up large collision domains into smaller ones Collision domain is a network segment with two or more devices sharing the same.



Switching Techniques:

In large networks there might be multiple paths linking sender and receiver. Information may be switched as it travels through various communication channels. There are three typical switching techniques available for digital traffic.

  • Circuit Switching
  • Message Switching
  • Packet Switching


Let’s start a brief explanation on each technique and its advantages & dis-advantages by Ravi Namboori a Data Center Expert & a Director of Architect at Equinix.

let’s start a brief explaination on each of 3 techniques.


  • Circuit Switching:
  • Circuit switching is a technique that directly connects the sender and the receiver in an unbroken path.
  • Telephone switching equipment, for example, establishes a path that connects the caller’s telephone to the receiver’s telephone by making a physical connection.
  • With this type of switching technique, once a connection is established, a dedicated path exists between both ends until the connection is terminated.
  • Routing decisions must be made when the circuit is first established, but there are no decisions made after that time


Advantages & Disadvantages Advantages:


The communication channel (once established) is dedicated.


  • Possible long wait to establish a connection, (10 seconds, more on long- distance or international calls.) during which no data can be transmitted.
  • More expensive than any other switching techniques, because a dedicated path is required for each connection.
  • Inefficient use of the communication channel, because the channel is not used when the connected systems are not using it.
  • Message Switching:

With message switching there is no need to establish a dedicated path between two stations.

  • When a station sends a message, the destination address is appended to the message.
  • The message is then transmitted through the network, in its entirety, from node to node.
  • Each node receives the entire message, stores it in its entirety on disk, and then transmits the message to the next node.
  • This type of network is called a store-and- forward network.

Advantages & Disadvantages:


Channel efficiency can be greater compared to circuit- switched systems, because more devices are sharing the channel.

  • Traffic congestion can be reduced, because messages may be temporarily stored in route.
  • Message priorities can be established due to store-and- forward technique.
  • Message broadcasting can be achieved with the use of broadcast address appended in the message.


  • Message switching is not compatible with interactive applications.
  • Store-and-forward devices are expensive, because they must have large disks to hold potentially long messages.
  • Packet Switching:

Packet switching can be seen as a solution that tries to combine the advantages of message and circuit switching and to minimize the disadvantages of both.

  • There are two methods of packet switching: Datagram virtual circuit.

packet switching


Packet Switching: Datagram:

Datagram packet switching is similar to message switching in that each packet is a self-contained unit with complete addressing information attached.

  • This fact allows packets to take a variety of possible paths through the network. So the packets, each with the same destination address, do not
  • Follow the same route, and they may arrive out of sequence at the exit point node (or the destination).
  • Reordering is done at the destination point based on the sequence number of the packets.
  • It is possible for a packet to be destroyed if one of the nodes on its way is crashed momentarily. Thus all its queued packets may be lost.

To know more on networking related topics from a Cisco Evangelist Ravi Namboori check out his blogs and video presentations.

Packet Switching: Virtual Circuit:

In the virtual circuit approach, a preplanned route is established before any data packets are sent.

  • A logical connection is established when a sender send a “call request packet” to the receiver and the receiver send back an acknowledge packet “call accepted packet” to the sender if the receiver agrees on conversational parameters.
  • The conversational parameters can be maximum packet sizes, path to be taken, and other variables necessary to establish and maintain the conversation.
  • Virtual circuits imply acknowledgements, flow control, and error control, so virtual circuits are reliable.
  • That is, they have the capability to inform upper-protocol layers if a transmission problem occurs.

Advantages & Disadvantages:


Packet switching is cost effective, because switching devices do not need massive amount of secondary storage.

  • Packet switching offers improved delay characteristics, because there are no long messages in the queue (maximum packet size is fixed). Packet can be rerouted if there is any problem, such as, busy or disabled links.
  • The advantage of packet switching is that many network users can share the same channel at the same time. Packet switching can maximize link efficiency by making optimal use of link bandwidth.


  • Protocols for packet switching are typically more complex.
  • It can add some initial costs in implementation.
  • If packet is lost, sender needs to retransmit the data.
  • Another disadvantage is that packet-switched systems still can’t deliver the same quality as dedicated circuits in applications requiring very little delay – like voice conversations or moving images.

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