We have seen that the trend in networks is toward convergence using a single set of wires and devices to handle voice, video, and data transmission. In addition, there has been a dramatic shift in the way businesses operate. No longer are employees constrained to physical offices or by geographic boundaries. Resources must now be seamlessly available anytime and anywhere. The Cisco Borderless Network architecture enables different elements, from access switches to wireless access points, to work together and allow users to access resources from any place at any time.
The traditional three-layer hierarchical design model divides the network into core, distribution, and access layers, and allows each portion of the network to be optimized for specific functionality. It provides modularity, resiliency, and flexibility, which provides a foundation that allows network designers to overlay security, mobility, and unified communication features. In some networks, having a separate core and distribution layer is not required. In these networks, the functionality of the core layer and the distribution layer are often collapsed together.
Cisco LAN switches use ASICs to forward frames based on the destination MAC address. Before this can be accomplished, the switch must first use the source MAC address of incoming frames to build a MAC address table in content-addressable memory (CAM). If the destination MAC address is contained in this table, the frame is forwarded only to the specific destination port. In cases where the destination MAC address is not found in the MAC address table, the frames are flooded out all ports except the one on which the frame was received.
Switches use either store-and-forward or cut-through switching. Store-and-forward reads the entire frame into a buffer and checks the CRC before forwarding the frame. Cut-through switching only reads the first portion of the frame and starts forwarding it as soon as the destination address is read. Although this is extremely fast, no error checking is done on the frame before forwarding.
Every port on a switch forms a separate collision domain allowing for extremely high-speed full-duplex communication. Switch ports do not block broadcasts, and connecting switches together can extend the size of the broadcast domain often resulting in degraded network performance.