Layer 2 Switch

A switch operating as a network bridge may interconnect devices in a home or office. The bridge learns the MAC address of each connected device. Bridges also buffer an incoming packet and adapt the transmission speed to that of the outgoing port. While there are specialized applications, such as storage area networks, where the input and output interfaces are the same bandwidth, this is not always the case in general LAN applications. In LANs, a switch used for end user access typically concentrates lower bandwidth and uplink into a higher bandwidth.

Layer 3 Switch

A layer-3 switch can perform some or all of the functions normally performed by a router. Most network switches, however, are limited to supporting a single type of physical network, typically Ethernet, whereas a router may support different kinds of physical networks on different ports.

A common layer-3 capability is awareness of IP multicast through IGMP snooping. With this awareness, a layer-3 switch can increase efficiency by delivering the traffic of a multicast group only to ports where the attached device has signalled that it wants to listen to that group.

Layer-3 switches typically support IP routing between VLANs configured on the switch. Some layer-3 switches support the routing protocols that routers use to exchange information about routes between networks.


A router is a networking device that forwards data packets between computer networks. Routers perform the traffic directing functions on the Internet. … A packet is typically forwarded from one router to another router through the networks that constitute an internetwork until it reaches its destination node.

A router is connected to two or more data lines from different networks. When a data packet comes in on one of the lines, the router reads the network address information in the packet to determine the ultimate destination. Then, using information in its routing table or routing policy, it directs the packet to the next network on its journey.