The network effect, connecting many things together, needs a connector. In networking, this is the network switch.
This is where your network design begins.
Connecting computers, printers, or any other device, the network switch is the integral piece of hardware to make that happen.
Here, we will discuss what is a network switch, how it differs from a network router, and how this fits into the software defined networking conversation.
What is a network switch
A network switch is a networking device that switches and forwards data packets. A network switch will forward data packets from one network to another. The network switch connects multiple devices on a network.
The switch will typically sit within a data center and forward data packets from one device to one or multiple devices. The broadcast is usually through one port. Data is typically not broadcast through multiple ports.
A network switch is different from a network router. Although both play an important function in a network and the internet.
What is the difference between a network switch and network router
A network switch is used to connect multiple devices on a network. Thus, the network switch is used to create a network.
A network router, on the other hand, is used to connect devices to the internet. Connecting networks and autonomous systems (AS). The network router is how BGP best path selection is implemented. It is the hardware used to determine the best path for data packets to travel.
Network switches and network routers are essential to building a network. They connect the network to the internet. They are the basic hardware in networking.
Network switches in software defined networking
Software defined networking (SDN) has become an important conversation in networking. With architecting your network through network functions virtualization (NFV), SDN is the ability to control your network remotely with software.
This is common practice, but in recent years has gained significant traction. The reason being the network switch market, like we discussed in the network router market, has become generic. Thus, more options for software to be run on network switches has come onto the market.
SDN, as part of the infrastructure as code movement in DevOps, has flourished with the practice of white-box switching.
What is white-box switching
White-box switching is the use of generic networking devices. For our particular discussion, it is the generic use of network switches. This use has opened the door for OpenFlow.
White-box switching is building your network architecture with generic network switches. Then, running Linux and then being able to run OpenFlow. OpenFlow, which we use at Datapath.io, allows its users to run a NetDevOps environment.
With the popularity of SDN and OpenFlow, more vendors are providing white-box capabilities with their network switches. Cisco has even moved into the open source networking market with its own offerings.
As DevOps becomes a bigger conversation in IT, it is important for networking to keep itself aligned with the goals of the organization. That is why with SDN and white-box switches, a NetDevOps culture can begin to be adopted.
Network switches and the role of NetDevOps
NetDevOps is bringing a DevOps mindset to networking. Then, aligning the networking goals with the DevOps organization.
Network switches play an integral role in making this happen for the widespread use of SDN. This brings concepts like continuous integration and automation into networking. Automation is a big goal for software development. Networking previously did not have the resources to join the conversation. Now, with the change in network switches, network automation is possible.
Making NetDevOps possible, helps improve the overall implementation of DevOps within an organization.
Network switches, like network routers, are an important fundamental to networking. Understanding their role in the conversation is an essential beginning.
To learn more about networking terms as they relate to DevOps, you can download the DevOps Networking eBook.