Network switch is a valuable asset to increase capacity and speed of your network. There are various approaches to connect switches, among which switching stacking, trunking and uplink are the most prevailing connecting methods. How do you add switches to your network design to provide the most benefit? This post will discuss the best methods to connect multiple switches by expounding switch stacking vs. trunking vs. uplink.
Switch stacking means that a switch is stacked on top of one another, which allows you to manage multiple switches as a single entity and provides increased bandwidth. It only happens between the same model of switches from the same vendor. Typically, a stackable switch has a dedicated uplink port at the front or a stacking port in the backplane. Stacking a group of network switches can not only simplify management but also enhance switching capacity. The switching capacity or the port density of a stack is the sum of the combined switches. For instance, when you stack four 24 port switches, you will get a 96-port stacking unit when it comes to configuration.
Figure 1: Switch Stacking with 4 FS S3800-24T4S 24 Port Switches
Uplink is a subjective concept which means that the cascading of ports between two switches are facilitated via the so called “uplink port”. Uplink ports often have higher data rates than conventional interfaces and are designed for inner-switch connection with a standard straight-through cable or direct attach cable. As illustrated below, to build an uplink between two FS S5800-48F4S SFP switches, you can simply connect the uplink port of one switch to the uplink port of the other switch using a 10G SFP+ direct attach cable. Most enterprise switches in the market are 48 port switches with SFP+ uplinks or 24 port switches with either SFP or SFP+ uplinks.
Figure 2: Switch Uplink with 2 FS S5800-48F4S SFP Switches
Trunking implies a connection between 2 switches using Layer 2 technology. A trunk port is a port that is assigned to carry traffic for multiple VLANs that are accessible by a specific switch, which is a process known as trunking. In the following example, each FS S3800-48T4S 48 port switch is configured with 2 VLANs (10 and 20). There is a link between these two switches over which traffic for both VLANs can pass. In the VLAN trunk link, each switch has a port designated as a trunk port to allow data flows between these VLANs.
Figure 3: VLAN Trunking with 2 FS S3800-48T4S 48 Port Switches
The point of switch stacking is to increase the number of ports in a single unit. Ideally, you’d get a higher-bandwidth stacking connection, as you want it to be as close to backplane speed as possible. Switch stacking makes it very convenient to manage multiple switches from a single console, which fits perfectly for space limited deployments. There might be an additional benefit for stacking in that you can form a ring topology and take advantage of all of the links’ bandwidth as well as redundant paths but this probably depends on a given vendor’s implementation. By contrast, trunking is often used to form an inter-network including LANs, VLANs and WANs. This approach enables packets encapsulated for multiple VLANs to cross exactly the same port as well as retain the traffic separation among them.
Some stackable switches also have uplink ports which means these switches can be connected via both stacking and uplink port. What distinguishes stacking from uplink is the connection methods utilized. When stacking multiple switches, direct attach cables are commonly used to form a stacking topology between switches of the same models. While the connection between uplink ports can be set up via both standard Cat5e/Cat6 cables and direct attach cables. Switch uplink offers a perfect fit for connecting switches from different product family with more flexibility but less bandwidth compared to switch stacking. In a stacking system, each stack member share a single IP address and act as a whole unit, while in switch uplink, each switch that is connected stands alone and works independently.
In switch uplink, the receive/transmit pair is reversed and can operate at line rate bidirectionally. Thus, uplink port is usually utilized to connect to aggregation switch or core switch without the need of crossover cables in the networks. Compared with switch trunking, switch uplink is much more easier to install without having to run numerous VLANs at the same time. Thus switch uplink is also a wise option for the networks where switches of different capacities have been installed. But in switch trunking, you can handle multiple signals simultaneously and extend your configured VLAN across the entire network, making it extremely appropriate for public places such as apartments or dormitories that covers many sub-networks.
After analyzing switch stacking vs. trunking vs. uplink, we can draw a conclusion that stacking offers more bandwidth while simplifies network management, proven as a more cost-effective alternative to chassis based higher-end switches. Switch trunking is a great option for inter-network including LANs, VLANs and WANs which require network integrity as well as retain the traffic separation. Switch uplink is best where you don’t want to use the crossover cables in the networks, which keeps the installations and applications easier with standard Ethernet ports.
Switch stacking vs. trunking vs. uplink, which one to choose depends on many factors, such as the network design, cabling infrastructures, switching capacities, configuration requirements as well as cost. No matter which method you select to connect switches, a bonus point which can substantially improve network performance is to utilize fully functional Ethernet switches. FS.COM Ethernet switches are embedded with multiple configuration modes to make it easy for network management and maintenance. Gigabit switches, 10gb switches, 40gb switches and 100gb switches are all available for your choice. Free software upgrade and tech support are also accessible for our Ethernet switches.
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