As data center network infrastructure becomes more decentralized, data center switches are becoming a new switch category. Unlike the network switch of traditional three-layer hierarchical network, the data center-level switch is designed to support data and storage of mission-critical applications. There are a variety of data center switches and suppliers in the market. Buying a good switch may be a difficult task. This article will help you understand what data center switches are, the requirements for data center switches, and some useful purchasing tips.

What is a data center switch?

Generally speaking, the data center switch is a high-performance switch, mainly for large enterprises and cloud providers that rely heavily on virtualization. It can be deployed in the entire data center, or it can anchor a two-layer (spin-leaf) or a layer of flat grid or fabric architecture. Data center switches have the following common features:

They can handle both north and south and east and west traffic flows;


All data center switches adopt the top-of-rack (ToR) and end-of-line (EoR) architectures;


They support high-bandwidth interconnection using standard LAN Ethernet protocols and SAN protocols. For example, Fibre Channel and Ethernet Fibre Channel;


All components of distributed data center switches can be managed through a single management interface for ease of use.


Considerations when purchasing data center switches

Choosing a data center switch can be a difficult task, whether you are deploying a new data center or decide to upgrade the existing network infrastructure. There are many factors to consider. Here are the most important factors in several aspects.


All data center switches have the same basic functions, such as using standards-based protocols or maintaining MAC addresses to port tables. Based on their use cases and applications, different switches have their unique characteristics. You should ask yourself a few questions to decide what functions you need? Are you going to use enterprise applications? Are you considering layoffs? Do you have a virtualized infrastructure? For example, a reliable data center switch should be able to automate and support new protocols, such as EVPN and VXLAN. Some data center switches support Ansible/OpenFlow configuration and automation tools for easy management.

Size, number of ports and data rate

Data center switches vary in size. Choosing the right size for your business depends on current and future data flows. A large switch needs more resources to install and will meet your current and future needs. Smaller switches are economical, but you must install them on the top of the rack to prevent bottlenecks.

The size of the optical fiber connection you need should also be carefully considered. It is wise to decide the connection you will use as soon as possible. Optical connections range from 10 Gbps, 25 Gbps to 40 Gbps, or more. At present, most data centers have begun to adopt 100Gbps, and some super-scale data centers are developing towards higher speed of 400Gbps, which paves the way for the development of 400G data center switches.

Data center switches also have different port types and numbers, depending on the specific cables and transceivers selected, so you should know what you need now and make a reasonable estimate of what you need in the future.