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Difference between hub and switch

Could you please tell me what is the difference between a hub and a switch?

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Hub
In general, a hub is the central part of a wheel where the spokes come together. The term is familiar to frequent fliers who travel through airport "hubs" to make connecting flights from one point to another. In data communications, a hub is a place of convergence where data arrives from one or more directions and is forwarded out in one or more other directions. A hub usually includes a switch of some kind. (And a product that is called a "switch" could usually be considered a hub as well.) The distinction seems to be that the hub is the place where data comes together and the switch is what determines how and where data is forwarded from the place where data comes together. Regarded in its switching aspects, a hub can also include a router.

 

  1. In describing network topologies, a hub topology consists of a backbone (main circuit) to which a number of outgoing lines can be attached ("dropped"), each providing one or more connection port for device to attach to. For Internet users not connected to a local area network, this is the general topology used by your access provider. Other common network topologies are the bus network and the ring network. (Either of these could possibly feed into a hub network, using a bridge.)
  2. As a network product, a hub may include a group of modem cards for dial-in users, a gateway card for connections to a local area network (for example, an Ethernet or a token ring), and a connection to a line (the main line in this example).

Switch
In telecommunications, a switch is a network device that selects a path or circuit for sending a unit of data to its next destination. A switch may also include the function of the router, a device or program that can determine the route and specifically what adjacent network point the data should be sent to. In general, a switch is a simpler and faster mechanism than a router, which requires knowledge about the network and how to determine the route.

Relative to the layered Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) communication model, a switch is usually associated with layer 2, the Data-Link layer. However, some newer switches also perform the routing functions of layer 3, the Network layer. Layer 3 switches are also sometimes called IP switches.

On larger networks, the trip from one switch point to another in the network is called a hop. The time a switch takes to figure out where to forward a data unit is called its latency. The price paid for having the flexibility that switches provide in a network is this latency. Switches are found at the backbone and gateway levels of a network where one network connects with another and at the subnetwork level where data is being forwarded close to its destination or origin. The former are often known as core switches and the latter as desktop switches.

In the simplest networks, a switch is not required for messages that are sent and received within the network. For example, a local area network may be organized in a token ring or bus arrangement in which each possible destination inspects each message and reads any message with its address.
 

This was first published in September 2002

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