When designing a network, it is important to select the proper hardware to meet current network requirements, as well as allow for network growth. Within an enterprise network, both switches and routers play a critical role in network communication.
There are five categories of switches for enterprise networks, as shown in Figure 1:
- Campus LAN Switches - To scale network performance in an enterprise LAN, there are core, distribution, access, and compact switches. These switch platforms vary from fanless switches with eight fixed ports to 13-blade switches supporting hundreds of ports. Campus LAN switch platforms include the Cisco 2960, 3560, 3750, 3850, 4500, 6500, and 6800 Series.
- Cloud-Managed Switches - The Cisco Meraki cloud-managed access switches enable virtual stacking of switches. They monitor and configure thousands of switch ports over the web, without the intervention of onsite IT staff.
- Data Center Switches - A data center should be built based on switches that promote infrastructure scalability, operational continuity, and transport flexibility. The data center switch platforms include the Cisco Nexus Series switches and the Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series switches.
- Service Provider Switches - Service provider switches fall under two categories: aggregation switches and Ethernet access switches. Aggregation switches are carrier-grade Ethernet switches that aggregate traffic at the edge of a network. Service provider Ethernet access switches feature application intelligence, unified services, virtualization, integrated security, and simplified management.
- Virtual Networking - Networks are becoming increasingly virtualized. Cisco Nexus virtual networking switch platforms provide secure multi-tenant services by adding virtualization intelligence technology to the data center network.
When selecting switches, network administrators must determine the switch form factors. This includes fixed configuration (Figure 2), modular configuration (Figure 3), stackable (Figure 4), or non-stackable. The thickness of the switch, which is expressed in the number of rack units, is also important for switches that are mounted in a rack. For example, the fixed configuration switches shown in Figure 2 are all one rack units (1U).
In addition to these considerations, Figure 5 highlights other common business considerations when selecting switch equipment.