Brian Jackson - Fotolia
What is the difference between circuit-switched and packet-switched networks?
Both circuit switching and packet switching are methods of transferring data between two nodes in a network.
In a circuit-switched network, when two nodes need to communicate, a direct and continuous connection is established between them. It carries only the one conversation, for as long as it lasts.
For example, in the old, analog phone system, a strand of copper connected a telephone to a phone line to a switching facility. A physical link would then be made to a line to another switching station. And, from there, it would go through a strand of copper all the way to the other phone.
On a packet-switched network, data is divided into chunks, or packets. The packets have headers attached to them to identify them -- e.g., by source, destination and sequence number -- and are intermingled with the packets of other conversations on a shared network.
In a typical computer data network, computers send packets to a switch, which combines them with packets from many other computers. The combined stream may go to another switch -- an aggregation switch -- bringing together traffic from many switches or to a router that will send them on their way across the internet to other networks. Only the first connection, from computer to switch, is dedicated; all the rest are shared.
Comparing circuit switching and packet switching
There are some key differences between the two models, as illustrated in this chart:
Dig Deeper on Network Infrastructure
Related Q&A from John Burke
WAN-cloud exchanges provide private and secure connectivity to cloud environments, making them beneficial for software-defined WAN and SaaS platforms. Continue Reading
Intent-based networking doesn't use any magical commands. But it does use a heavy dose of automation, which might cause some network teams to be wary... Continue Reading
Analytics tools that incorporate machine learning can monitor network behavior, highlight anomalies, and improve performance management and security. Continue Reading
Have a question for an expert?
Please add a title for your question
Get answers from a TechTarget expert on whatever's puzzling you.