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Difference between a Router and a Multilayer Switch

Posted on 2010-09-03
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How can you tell when you login to a device if it is a Router or a Multilayer switch?

Do Routers software switch and MLS hardware switch?

Do both have FIB and AT tables?

Do routers ever have SVI / vlan interfaces?

I am asking about Cisco devices mainly but I am interested in Brocade and Juniper as well.
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Question by:Dragon0x40
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by:jorlando66
ID: 33599489
This is agood article on the differences between a router and a layer 3 switch.  Rather than cut and paste it all here check out the link.

http://www.dslreports.com/faq/8347
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by:crouthamela
ID: 33599825
I would suggest running "show version" when you login to one. That will give you detailed information on the model, hardware, firmware, etc. From there you can look up the model number if you are not familiar with the product line to determine what it is.
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by:Dragon0x40
ID: 33599867
Thanks jorlando66,

That article is not totally clear to me either.

It brings up the question of what is a managed switch?

Is it just a switch that can be logged into and configured?

I would also like someone to answer my original questions?
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by:crouthamela
ID: 33599896
You are correct, a managed switch is one you can log in to and configure. As for the questions on vlans, many devices support that, most routers, firewalls, and switches all support vlans. A Layer 3 switch will have a FIB table since it acts as a router.
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by:Dragon0x40
ID: 33599963
Thanks crouthamela,

So I log into these 3 devices and run show ver:

cisco 2621 (MPC860)

cisco WS-C6509 (R7000)

cisco WS-C6509-V-E (R7000)

How do I look up where it specifically says "Router" or "Multilayer Switch"?

Maybe I need the very basics like if it is a chassis with cards it is an MLS but if it is a pizza box looking it is a router?

If a switch has a MSFC card is that a MLS and if you remove the MSFC card then it is a layer 2 switch?

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by:Dragon0x40
ID: 33599983
Does a Router have a FIB?
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by:crouthamela
crouthamela earned 50 total points
ID: 33600019
Just looking at it physically won't help usually since there are many different chassis.

I would suggest searching the model number on the Cisco website or going to the Products page and going from there.

As for the MSFC card, yes it more or less is the layer 3 part of the device.
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by:crouthamela
ID: 33600022
Yes a router has a FIB.
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Don Johnston earned 450 total points
ID: 33601596
From the top...

>How can you tell when you login to a device if it is a Router or a Multilayer switch?
The only way to be certain is by model number

>Do Routers software switch and MLS hardware switch?
No. Even switches can do process switching (software).

>Do both have FIB and AT tables?
Depends on the model of router, but yes, they can.

>Do routers ever have SVI / vlan interfaces?
If they have a switch module installed, they can.

>It brings up the question of what is a managed switch?
A switch that can be configured. As opposed to one of those cheap no-name switches.

>Is it just a switch that can be logged into and configured?
Yes

>How do I look up where it specifically says "Router" or "Multilayer Switch"?
You can look at the product literature.

>Maybe I need the very basics like if it is a chassis with cards it is an MLS but if it is a pizza box looking it is a router?
Nope. Some routers are modular too.

>If a switch has a MSFC card is that a MLS and if you remove the MSFC card then it is a layer 2 switch?
Well, yes. Except that the switches that have removalable MSFC's are not exactly current.

>Does a Router have a FIB?
It can if it supports CEF.

Here's the thing: A true router is a layer 3 device. Which means that it's not primarily designed to be a layer 2 device. However, you can enable bridging on a router and make it act like a layer 2 device. Or on some routers, you can install a switching module that will add a number of layer 2 interfaces.

A multilayer switch is a device that is designed but behave as a layer 2, layer 3 or both.

3550, 3560, 3750, 4500, 6500's are multilayer switches. 2900's are layer 2 switches. Pretty much everything else is a router... Unless we have to start dealing with firewalls, content switches and all the other stuff.


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Author Comment

by:Dragon0x40
ID: 33602001
thanks donjohnston,

I heard mc hammer singing you can't touch this after reading this one! nIce!

Yo I told you u can't touch this
Why you standing there man u can't touch this
Yo sound the bells school is in sucker u can't touch this

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by:nblancpain
ID: 33602975
Just a nice point : do you know the difference between a 6500 switch supervisor, and a 7600 router supervisor ?
Answer : there's none, both can be run by eg. a sup720.

Globally a router has the capacity of treating operations in CPU (like QOS classification and advanced mechanism) at a reduced speed, where switch will treat all in hardware for Gbps or 10G perfs (but more basic qos mechanism like SRR).
You can run iPBX on a router, not on a switch, add WAAS modules for bw optimization on a router, not on a switch,...

In fact the difference might be almost none.
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by:BooSTid
ID: 33632415
While the differences are getting less defined as time goes by; the major differences are going to usually come down to cost. Some of the basic router features that you need (NAT, Routing Protocols, etc) will only be found on high end MLS platforms (6xxx, and usually with additional modules), where you would have been able to accomplish the same task in a much cheaper routing device. Overall, I think cost is going to be the true differentiators for quite some time.
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by:Don Johnston
ID: 33632579
Actually, the 7600 is a NEBS compliant 6500 with vertically mounted cards.

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by:Dragon0x40
ID: 33632655
thanks nblancpain and BooSTid,

So a Router cost less money than a equally capable MLS? But an MLS probably has more ethernet ports.

Is an MLS normally faster than a Router?

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by:Don Johnston
Don Johnston earned 450 total points
ID: 33632718
>So a Router cost less money than a equally capable MLS?

Hard to say. It's unusual to find an MLS that has the same capabilities as a router. It's like comparing a car to a pickup truck.

An MLS will have more ethernet ports than a router. But a typical MLS only has ethernet ports... No serial ports, No T1 interfaces. No T3 interfaces.

>Is an MLS normally faster than a Router?

Pretty much.
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