switch : Computer Hardware Buyers’ Glossary


A switch is a fancy Ethernet hub. The term has many other more general meanings as well. The less technically inclined can think of a switch as a fast hub. In a standard hub only one packet at a time can be transmitted over the entire LAN (Local Area Network). Since packets are interleaved, it still appears to the eye that all computers can communicate simultaneously, if slowly. With a switch, multiple pairs of computers can exchange packets simultaneously. The switch effectively frantically makes and breaks pairwise connections between computers wishing to communicate. It works like a lightning fast phone system, where globally many conversations can happen at once, but each individual workstation can only have one conversation going at a time.

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