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Switching fabric is a network topology wherein different network nodes or terminals connect with each other via a number of switches, usually crossbar switches. The topology is used in high-speed networks like fiber channel, InfiniBand and RapidIO. This is the opposite of slower networks such as early iterations of Ethernet and broadcast networks because it spreads traffic across multiple physical links. The more switches and physical lines, the better throughput and network disruption tolerance the network has.
Switching fabric may also be known as switched fabric or simply fabric.
Switching fabric is a combination of hardware and software that controls traffic to and from a network node with the use of multiple switches. Data comes in one port and out on another port. It is independent of the router and the bus infrastructure technology that is being used to move data between nodes. It usually makes use of shared memory and data buffers. This topology is quite complex and that is reflected by its name, which is likened to a fabric, belying a complex grid of connections, switching paths and nodes present in the network. The term is also loosely used to collectively refer to all switching hardware and software in the network.
A good example of this is the fiber channel switched fabric (FC-SW) topology, where devices in the network are connected to each other via one or more fiber channel switches. The more nodes there are in the network, the more complex the formation of a mesh network becomes. This can get quite expensive because switches are costly devices. However, this topology may be one of the most scalable, as it allows the connection of devices up to the theoretical limit of 16 million devices.