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Routers vs. layer 3 switches

What's the difference between a router and a layer 3 category switch? Isn't the cat switch working at layer 3, making it a router?

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Correct. A layer 3 switch is able to route packets between networks it connects to. While most such products are commonly named "layer 3 switches," they are, in fact, routers. The main difference between the two is that a router's job is to route packets between similar or dissimilar networks, while a switch connects local network nodes together so the network can function. The routing performed by a switch is only (in most cases) for local network traffic, so I guess you could say that a layer 3 switch is the answer for a local network router!

This was first published in April 2005

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