Multilayer Switch

What Does Multilayer Switch Mean?

A multilayer switch is a network device that has the ability to operate at higher layers of the OSI reference model, unlike the Data Link Layer (DLL) traditionally used by switches. A multilayer switch can perform the functions of a switch as well as that of a router at incredibly fast speeds. A switch traditionally inspects frames, while a multilayer switch inspects deeper into the protocol description unit (at packet or even at segment level). Multilayer switches use ASIC hardware circuits to perform routing functions. This differs from typical routers, which reside on a microprocessor and use applications running on it to perform their routing operations.

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Techopedia Explains Multilayer Switch

Traditionally, switches are the network devices that forward data packets based on the Layer 2 information like media access control (MAC) addresses. Routers forward packets based on IP addresses. The router strips off the old Layer 2 header, slaps on the new one and queues the packet for transmission.

As multilayer switching technology developed, higher level functions were also added such as the ability to look deep inside packets for information that could aid in the packet-forwarding process. Thus, multilayer switches became devices that examine Layer 2 through Layer 7.

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Margaret Rouse

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.