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Ethernet Switching

Chapter Description

In this sample chapter from Introduction to Networks Companion Guide (CCNAv7) for Cisco Networking Academy students, you will review available switching forwarding methods and port settings on Layer 2 switch ports.

Summary (7.5)

The following is a summary of the topics in the chapter and their corresponding online modules.

Ethernet Frame

Ethernet operates at the data link layer and the physical layer. Ethernet standards define both the Layer 2 protocols and the Layer 1 technologies. Ethernet operates at the LLC and MAC sublayers of the data link layer. Data encapsulation includes the following: Ethernet frame, Ethernet addressing, and Ethernet error detection. Ethernet LANs use switches that operate in full-duplex. The Ethernet frame fields are Preamble and Start Frame Delimiter, Destination MAC Address, Source MAC Address, EtherType, Data, and FCS.

Ethernet MAC Address

The binary number system uses the digits 0 and 1. Decimal uses 0 through 9. Hexadecimal uses 0 through 9 and the letters A through F. The MAC address is used to identify the physical source and destination devices (NICs) on the local network segment. MAC addressing provides a method for device identification at the data link layer of the OSI model. An Ethernet MAC address is a 48-bit address expressed using 12 hexadecimal digits, or 6 bytes. An Ethernet MAC address consists of a 6-digit hexadecimal vendor OUI code followed by a 6-digit hexadecimal vendor-assigned value. When a device is forwarding a message to an Ethernet network, the Ethernet header includes the source and destination MAC addresses. In Ethernet, different MAC addresses are used for Layer 2 unicast, broadcast, and multicast communications.

The MAC Address Table

A Layer 2 Ethernet switch makes forwarding decisions based solely on Layer 2 Ethernet MAC addresses. The switch dynamically builds its MAC address table by examining the source MAC addresses of the frames received on a port. The switch forwards frames by searching for a match between the destination MAC address in the frame and an entry in the MAC address table. As a switch receives frames from different devices, it is able to populate its MAC address table by examining the source MAC address of each frame. When the MAC address table of the switch contains the destination MAC address, the switch is able to filter the frame and forward it out a single port.

Switch Speeds and Forwarding Methods

Switches use one of two forwarding methods for switching data between network ports: store-and-forward switching or cut-through switching. Two variants of cut-through switching are fast-forward and fragment-free switching. Two methods of memory buffering are port-based memory buffering and shared memory buffering. Two types of duplex settings are used for communications on an Ethernet network: full-duplex and half-duplex. Autonegotiation is an optional function on most Ethernet switches and NICs. It enables two devices to automatically negotiate the best speed and duplex capabilities. Full-duplex is chosen if both devices have the capability, and their highest common bandwidth is chosen. Most switch devices now support the automatic medium-dependent interface crossover (auto-MDIX) feature. When this feature is enabled, the switch automatically detects the type of cable attached to the port and configures the interfaces accordingly.

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