What is switching in Networking? - Open Port

What is switching in Networking?

In this article, What is switching in Networking, we are going to talk about switches and their use in networks.

What is switching in Networking

What is switching in Networking | Image by Thomas Ulrich from Pixabay

So, what is switching in networking?

Switching is one of the precious assets in computer networking. Most often, you usually access the internet via your computer network, or a different computer network that is outside your location, or your information is sent via a web of connected devices and transmission media. The process of the exchange of data and information across a wide range of computer networks and network fragments is referred to as switching in networking. In other words, any data element or type signal directing or redirecting towards a certain hardware piece or hardware address is switching.

The larger network can have different routes to connect the sender and the receiver of the message. As such, any time we send data and information, between both the sender and receiver, the information will switch via different routes.

Anytime we relay a message from one unit to another, that message doesn’t straight get to that device, there’s a wide range of nodes in the center, which the message switch before arriving at its destination.

Switching Techniques in Networking

There are three main types of switching in networking namely; circuit switching, message switching, and packet switching.

Circuit Switching

For circuit switching, an exclusive path is created for one connection for the sender and receiver to share information during the session of communication. Also, anytime a device relays a message to another device, an exclusive communication channel (switch) is created within the network.

The switching technique is the one responsible for developing a pre-specific path for the sender and receiver and the path is only reserved for the two devices provided that the connection is on. Both the gadgets are linked via this particular path and data transfer may as well be completed only via this particular path. Any other device can’t use this particular path for the transmission of data since this particular path is set aside. Also, for fixed data, they can be sent at a time using the circuit switching.

This particular technique was developed and previously used in analog phone networks. Circuit switching was used to physically link gadgets in the phone network. Circuit networking has three phases of communication;

  1. Established a circuit – this is the first phase where a switch is created. In this phase, an exclusive connection is created for the sender and the receiver via several switching nodes and centers.
  2. Transfer the data – after the circuit is created, communication can now happen between the two devices (sender and receiver).
  3. Disconnect the circuit – after the communication is over for the sender and receiver, the connection or link is disconnected. Essentially, the disconnection process can be done by either the sender or the receiver.

A good example of a telephone network is when you need to call the receiver on the other end, after he or she received the phone call, the link is established for the communication to occur between the two of you. When you or the other user delinks the phone, the circuit disconnects immediately.

Pros of Circuit Switching

  • Data is transmission without any delay or wait time
  • Can offer a prolonged data transmission
  • Offer an assured data transmission

Cons of Circuit Switching

  • It takes quite a long to create the path for the exclusive route
  • The path is only set aside for two devices
  • This technique doesn’t use well the system
  • The need for additional bandwidth

Message Switching

Unlike circuit switching that needs an exclusive path to be established beforehand, message switching doesn’t need a dedicated route to be created for both the receiver and the sender. For relaying the message, there’re several intermediary information switching nodes that are assigned the duties of transferring the information, and the information is sent as a bundle from the receiver node to the receiver node.

Also, in message switching, then the generating node relays a message, the receiver address is attached to the message. Therefore, in message switching, there isn’t any need to create an exclusive route for both communicating devices.

After the sender relays a message, the information is relayed as a bundle to the preceding switching node, kept in its wholly form on the disk, and thereafter it is relayed as a bundle to the preceding switch node and so forth until the information arrives at its intended destination. In case the preceding switching node doesn’t have sufficient space to keep the message, then the current switching node is put on a wait. And after the preceding node gets the required storage space to keep the message, the message on wait now switches to that node. As such, this type of switching network is also referred to as store and forward switching.

Note: This switching technique is not suitable for real-time systems or applications such as voice, video, POS systems, etc.

Packet Switching

For packet switching, when data is sent, it is fragmented into smaller pieces referred to as packets. These units move across the network system and usually use the shortest route to reach the destination. Each fragment has a unique sequence number for easy retrieval at the destination. Some of the information that is contained in every packet may include a sequence number, node address information, destination address, source address, etc. And every packet is routed via the inter-network differently.

There’re 2 categories of packet switching namely; connection-oriented and connectionless packet switching.

Connectionless packet switching

Another name for this is datagram switching. For this type, every fragment is routed differently using network devices in regards to the receiver address it has in every packet. Because every packet is numbered individually, the outcome is that every packet is given with no order with separate routes of transmission, it relies on the networking units like switches and routers at each given time. After arriving at the recipient location, the fragment is organized to the initial form.

Connection-oriented packet switching

This type of switching is also called virtual circuit packet switching. In this category, the fragments are relayed in a definite order through a route.

Pros of packet switching

  • The technique is efficient
  • The message is secured
  • It’s fault-tolerant

In this article, what is switching in networking, we talk about switches focusing on Circuit Switching, Message Switching, and Packet Switching, and their use in networks in a hope to put some light on that subject.


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