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Lesson 5Switches, bridges, and routers
ObjectiveDescribe switches, bridges, and routers.

What are Switches, Bridges, and Routers?

Switches, bridges, and routers are products used to interconnect LANs, WANs, and networks of different types.
LAN and WAN solutions have evolved to the point where they have become almost like packaged applications. They are easy to install and reliable in terms of operation (except for the always-challenging wiring question).
  • Cisco TCP/IP based networks: Cisco is the market leader in data networking hardware, especially in terms of TCP/IP based networks (specifically the Internet). Cisco's market share is dominant in data networking hardware, particularly Internet routers. Consequently, many of their products have evolved into de facto network standards. Cisco does have competition in the area of routers, switches, and bridges. Lucent, by far the dominant player in voice networking products, has begun to make significant market penetration in data. In addition, companies like Bay Networks, Motorola, Ascend, Cabletron, and Nortel are important players in this field. The following table shows the top switches, bridges and router vendors

Switches, Bridges, Routers

As of 2024, several network vendors provide switches, bridges, and routers, each with their unique offerings catering to different needs and market segments.
  1. Cisco: Cisco is a dominant player in the networking industry. They offer a range of Ethernet switches under various series like Meraki, Catalyst IE3400 Rugged Series, and more. Cisco's market share in Ethernet switches was reported to be 47.2% in the second quarter of 2023, indicating their significant presence in this market segment.
  2. Arista Networks: Arista Networks is another prominent vendor, known for its substantial growth and innovation in Ethernet switches. They held a market share of 10.4% in the same period, reflecting their strong competitive position.
  3. Huawei: Despite facing various challenges, Huawei has maintained a respectable position in the market, with a 9.0% share in Ethernet switch revenue.
  4. Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE): Operating under the Aruba Networks product line, HPE offers a range of Ethernet switches and has shown resilience and competitiveness with a 7.1% market share in Ethernet switch revenue.
  5. Juniper Networks: Known for their EX Series Ethernet switches, Juniper Networks achieved a 2.9% market share in Ethernet switch revenue, indicating their stable presence in the market.
  6. Other Notable Vendors: Additional key players include Zyxel, known for their MG-108 switch ideal for SMBs; Linksys with their LGS116P switch suited for SOHO networks; NETGEAR, particularly noted for their MSM4352 switch for large enterprises; and MikroTik, which offers both routers and switches.
  7. Emerging and Niche Vendors: There are also other vendors like Dell (PowerConnect Switches), D-Link, ExtremeSwitching, and NVIDIA (Spectrum Switches), each offering products tailored to specific needs and market niches.

These companies have variously positioned themselves across different segments of the market, from consumer and small office/home office (SOHO) networks to large enterprise and industrial applications. The diversity in vendors ensures a wide range of options for consumers and businesses, catering to various requirements such as data center needs, rugged environments, high-speed requirements, and budget-friendly solutions. The Ethernet switch market has shown significant growth, with increased demand driven by advancements in technology and the need for high-speed networking solutions. This growth is characterized by innovations in the industry, focusing on higher-speed and feature-rich platforms to accommodate new applications and network demands. For detailed product specifications and the latest offerings, it would be advisable to visit the individual vendors' websites or contact their representatives directly.

Technical Load Balancing Systems

The term "Web Traffic Director" can be a bit ambiguous in the context of ecommerce, as it could refer to two different things:
  1. Hardware/Software Load Balancing: In a technical sense, a "Web Traffic Director" might refer to a hardware or software system that routes incoming website traffic across multiple servers, ensuring optimal performance and preventing overload. These systems are still very much in use in ecommerce, where high web traffic is crucial for success. Popular cloud platforms like Google Cloud offer "Traffic Director" services for this purpose.
  2. Ecommerce Traffic Management (Director role): However, the term can also be used informally to describe the role of an individual or team responsible for driving and managing website traffic in an ecommerce context. This would primarily involve activities like:
    • Marketing and Advertising: Implementing online marketing campaigns, managing pay-per-click advertising, and optimizing SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to drive more visitors to the website.
    • Website Optimization: Analyzing user behavior, improving website usability, and A/B testing different elements to increase conversion rates.
    • Social Media and Influencer Marketing: Utilizing social media platforms and influencer partnerships to engage with potential customers and drive traffic to the store.

In this sense, the role of a "Web Traffic Director" within an ecommerce organization is definitely still relevant and crucial for success. While the specific title might not be universally used, the core responsibilities of managing website traffic and optimizing conversions remain essential for any online business.

Which Vendors currently provide Web Traffic Reports

There are several vendors that provide web traffic reports, including:
  1. Google Analytics
  2. Adobe Analytics (formerly Omniture)
  3. Piwik
  4. Clicky
  5. Yandex Metrica
  6. Matomo (formerly Piwik)
  7. Woopra
  8. Heap
  9. Mixpanel
  10. ClickTale

These vendors offer a range of services to analyze web traffic, including visitor tracking, conversion rate optimization, and visitor behavior analysis. It's important for a corporation to evaluate the specific needs and requirements for their web traffic analysis before choosing a vendor and solution.

Network bridge in a Switching Environment

In a networking environment, a network bridge operates as a device that connects multiple network segments, working at the data link layer (Layer 2) of the OSI model. Its primary function is to filter and forward data packets between different segments of a local area network (LAN) or between LANs, thus helping manage the flow of traffic and reduce congestion on the network. Here's a detailed explanation of how a network bridge operates:
  1. Traffic Filtering and Forwarding: A bridge examines incoming network traffic (data packets) and decides whether to forward or filter it. This decision is based on the MAC (Media Access Control) addresses of the devices sending and receiving the data. If the source and destination are on different segments, the bridge forwards the packet; if they're on the same segment, it filters out the packet to reduce unnecessary traffic.
  2. Learning MAC Addresses: Bridges are intelligent devices that learn the MAC addresses of connected devices. When a device sends a packet, the bridge records the MAC address of the sender and the port it came from in its MAC address table. This learning process allows the bridge to make more informed decisions about where to send future packets.
  3. Reducing Collisions: In an Ethernet network, a bridge helps to reduce collisions by dividing the network into separate collision domains. Each segment connected to a bridge operates independently, which means that a packet collision on one segment doesn’t directly interfere with another.
  4. Transparent to Network Devices: Bridges are transparent to the devices on the network. This means that devices do not need to be aware of the bridge's existence; they operate as if they are part of a single, unified network.
  5. Spanning Tree Protocol (STP): To prevent loops in the network, which can cause broadcast storms and multiple copies of the same packet circulating indefinitely, bridges often use the Spanning Tree Protocol. STP dynamically discovers a loop-free subset of the network's topology, ensuring a single active path between any two network nodes.
  6. Support for Different Network Types: Bridges can also connect different types of networks (e.g., connecting an Ethernet network with a token ring network), making them versatile in multi-technology environments.
  7. Local Traffic Management: By keeping local traffic within a LAN segment, bridges help in reducing overall network traffic, which can lead to better performance on each segment of the network.
  8. Forwarding Decisions: The forwarding decisions made by bridges are based on Layer 2 information (i.e., MAC addresses), unlike routers that make decisions based on Layer 3 (IP addresses).

Bridges play a crucial role in network design by enhancing the efficiency and management of network traffic. They are particularly useful in scenarios where a network needs to be expanded or segmented without drastically changing its architecture.

What are Interconnections?

Interconnection, or how to get all the disparate networks to talk to one another, is the domain of the network and ecommerce architect. Switching, bridging and routing are the primary interconnection tools of the network architect.

Switches and bridges Routers
These products support low-level data internetworking functions, such as compensating for speed differences between different networks, and filtering, forwarding and converting packet information. Switches are hardware-based, and thus tend to be faster than software-based bridges. Offer similar functions to switches and bridges, in terms of forwarding packets; however, they also perform address and directory mapping and resolution, an absolutely essential function in the enormous Internet, or in large VPNs. Routing occurs as OSI layer 3 (the network layer) rather than OSI layer 2 (data link layer), which is where bridging and switching occurs.

Function of a Bridge in Networking

A bridge goes one step up on a hub in that it looks at the destination of the packet before sending. If the destination address is not on the other side of the bridge it will not transmit the data. A bridge only has one incoming and one outgoing port. To build on the email analogy above, the bridge is allowed to decide if the message should continue on. Bridges are typically used to separate parts of a network that do not need to communicate regularly, but still need to be connected.
Traffic Handling in an X.25 Network
Traffic Handling in an X.25 Network

  • Switch: A switch steps up on a bridge in that it has multiple ports. When a packet comes through a switch it is read to determine which computer to send the data to. This leads to increased efficiency in that packets are not going to computers that do not require them. Now the email analogy has multiple people able to send email to multiple users. The switch can decide where to send the mail based on the address. Most large networks use switches rather than hubs to connect computers within the same subnet.
  • Router: A router is similar in a switch in that it forwards packets based on address. But, instead of the MAC address that a switch uses, a router can use the IP address. This allows the network to go across different protocols. The most common home use for routers is to share a broadband internet connection. The router has a public IP address and that address is shared with the network. When data comes through the router it is forwarded to the correct computer. This comparison to email gets a little off base. This would be similar to the router being able to receive a packet as email and sending it to the user as a fax.

LAN Networking - Quiz

Verify your understanding of the concepts we have covered with a lan networking quiz. This quiz will provide you with valuable practice prior to taking the end of course test.
LAN Networking - Quiz

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