What is an aggregate switch?

Updated on Jan 20, 2023 by

The three layers of a traditional three-layer network design are the core layer, aggregation layer, and access layer. Together, these layers can offer consumers a network that is safe, reliable, and affordable. As the physical part of the aggregation layer, aggregation switches typically play a crucial part in the overall network architecture. An aggregation switch is what? How does it work? Let's examine it in detail.

What Is an Aggregation Switch?

An aggregation switch is a networking device that allows multiple network connections to be bundled together into a single link. This enables increased bandwidth and better network performance.

Typically, aggregation switches use link aggregation protocols, such as Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP) and Ethernet Aggregation to combine multiple links into a single, logical connection. Therefore, they can offer great flexibility and scalability, allowing for quick and easy network expansion or reconfiguration.

In most cases, aggregation switches are used in networks with high-traffic levels or large numbers of users, as they can efficiently distribute data across multiple links.

What Role Does the Aggregation Switch Play in the Network?

Installed in the middle of the network architecture, the aggregation switch is in charge of controlling the data sent from the lower layer (access layer switch), while also reporting data to the upper layer (core layer switch). This allows for the efficient flow of network traffic and helps to improve network performance.

After the aggregation switch receives data from the access switch, it performs local routing, filtering, traffic balancing, and QoS priority management. Then it will process the data for security mechanisms, IP address translation, and multicast management. Finally, according to the processing result, it will forward the data to the core layer switch or perform local routing to ensure the normal operation of the core layer.

Generally, aggregation switches outperform access switches in terms of performance and switching speed. They can provide an important layer of redundancy and scalability for the network, as well as route network traffic and enforce network security policies.

Is the Distribution Layer the Same as the Aggregation Layer?

The Distribution Layer and the Aggregation Layer are two distinct layers of network architecture.

The Distribution Layer is responsible for forwarding traffic from the core of the network to the access layer, while the Aggregation Layer gathers traffic from the access layer and forwards it to the core.

The two layers are connected by a Layer 2 link, allowing for direct communication between the two. The roles of the two layers are different, but they work together to provide a secure and efficient network architecture.

three-layer network architecture

Aggregation Switches vs Access Switches: What's the Difference?

The main distinction between access switches and aggregation switches is their level of operation and performance.

  • Operational Level. The access switch is located in the network where users can directly connect to or access the network. As for the aggregation switch, it is used to reduce the load on the core layer equipment, and it performs uploading and distributing as well as other functions such as policy implementation, security, and working group access.

  • Features. Aggregation switches require more performance than access layer switches to handle all traffic from access layer devices, fewer interfaces, and faster switching rates. And the access switch primarily provides adequate bandwidth for access layer access and includes user management functions such as address authentication, user authentication, and user information collection.

Things to Consider When Selecting Aggregation Switches

Backplane Bandwidth and Packet Forwarding Rate

If the backplane bandwidth and packet forwarding rate are limited, the switch's data processing capability will be compromised, resulting in congestion. However, most brand switches currently on the market, such as the FS S5800-48T4S switch, can support wire-speed switching.

As a result, when selecting an aggregation switch, it is sufficient to select the appropriate one based on the actual needs in order to avoid resource waste.

Port Type and Port Number

Data from several access switches must be combined by the aggregation switch before being forwarded to the core switch. The kind and quantity of uplink ports on the network's access switches must be taken into account while choosing the aggregation switch.

When choosing an aggregation switch, it is best to take the network's scale into account. As the network upgrades and expands, the company should select an enterprise-level switch with scalable ports as the aggregation switch.

Port Speed

The uplink and downlink should be considered when determining the aggregation switch port rate. The speeds of the ports can be the same or different.

For instance, when a 10G aggregation switch needs to be interconnected with a 10G access switch, a 10G downlink port must be selected.

Functional Management

  • Link Aggregation. High-bandwidth aggregation links connecting to core switches are required for aggregation switches. Therefore, link aggregation must be supported by aggregation switches in order to ensure that the access layer has enough bandwidth and that it can continue to function even if one of the links is cut.

  • Quality of Service (QoS). To assure the quality of service for a certain type of traffic, the QoS priority policy might give it a priority during transmission. The performance and quality of audio and video communications cannot be guaranteed during network transmission unless you choose an enterprise-level switch that supports QoS as an aggregation switch when you make your purchase.

  • Security Strategy. The aggregation switch can select an enterprise-level switch that supports security controls to stop unauthorized access and malicious information from entering the network. The ACL (Access Control List) can specify the kinds of traffic communication that are permitted, effectively stop some forms of traffic from being transmitted, and maintain network security.


The network's safety is guaranteed by redundancy capability. Power redundancy is crucial for aggregation switches because it allows them to continue to function even if one of their power supplies fails or needs to be replaced, preventing any disruption to the network's regular operations.


Aggregation switches are indispensable in network architecture. When selecting a suitable one for your business, please take the factors mentioned above into consideration, such as port rate, redundance, ect. You can also check out FS.com for more information about it.

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