What is SMB switches?

SMB switch is the small business switch, it always used in small and medium-sized companies. This switch is relative to some large, high-end switches. SMB switches support common Layer 2 protocols, but the performance and number of interfaces are weak.

Cisco Next Generation SMB Switches are the evolution of the existing SMB switching portfolio and share the same philosophy and value proposition — building a simple, secure, and reliable network at an affordable price. The new portfolio includes new 550X, 350X, 350, and 250 Series models to replace the current 500, 300, and 200 Series. There is no change to the 220 Series smart switches and the 110 and 95 Series unmanaged switches. They will continue to be integral parts of the Cisco SMB switching portfolio.

Cisco SMB Switching Portfolio Transition

Cisco’s Small and Midsize Business (SMB) switching portfolio provides better performance, superior ease of use, and more intelligent features to help our customers thrive in the digital economy.

Access switches, aggregation switches and core switches are another classification method. In the data center or enterprise network planning, the network is hierarchical, divided into the access layer, aggregation layer, and the core layer. The switches placed in these three layers correspond to access switches, aggregation switches, and core switches.

Access Switch

Access switch is the only one that directly interacts with end-user devices. Because an access network switch connects the majority of devices to the network, it normally has the highest port density of all switch types. In spite of the high port count, access switch usually provides the lowest throughput per port. For example, most modern access switches come with a 10/100/1000Mbps copper Ethernet connection to end devices. While core and distribution switches commonly use between 10Gbps and 100Gbps fiber optic ports. It is designed to meet the demand for cost-effective Gigabit access for enterprise networks and operators.

Access Switch

Access switch generally locates at the access layer for connecting the majority of devices to the network, therefore it usually has high-density ports. It is the most commonly-used gigabit Ethernet switch that communicates directly with the public Internet, mostly used in offices, small server rooms, and media production centers. Both managed and unmanaged switches can be deployed as an access layer switches.

Aggregation switches

Aggregation switches are typically used to connect a number of ToR switches to a core switch/router. The core switch is at the top of the cloud data center network pyramid and may include a wide area network (WAN) connection to the outside carrier network. Because of the high-bandwidth links and high port counts of these switches, modular designs are employed with two stage fabrics either in a star or fat-tree topology. High-bandwidth aggregation ports are switched or routed to even higher bandwidth uplink ports.

Core switches

A core switch, also known as a tandem switch and a backbone switch, is a high-capacity switch positioned in the physical core, or backbone, of a network. In a public Wide Area Network (WAN) a core switch serves to interconnect edge switches, which are positioned at the network edge. In a Local Area Network (LAN), a core switch serves to interconnect workgroup switches, relatively low capacity switches that serve groups of workers in geographic clusters. See also switch.

If we spend some time looking up dictionaries for the meaning of core switch, we will find a definition similar to “A core switch is a high-capacity switch generally positioned within the backbone or physical core of a network. Core switches serve as the gateway to a wide area network (WAN) or the Internet—they provide the final aggregation point for the network and allow multiple aggregation modules to work together (An excerpt from Techpedia).” The definition explains its high-capacity feature, the physical location and its function of connecting multiple aggregation devices in network.

The Difference Between Access Switch and Other Switches

Access switch, distribution switch and core switch perform different functions. Distribution switches collect the data from all the access switches and then forward it to the core layer switches. A core switch is a high capacity switch that is generally positioned within the backbone or physical core of a network. In small networks where there are only a few servers and clients, access Ethernet switches are adequate without needing core switches or distribution switches. What is more, there is generally only one or two core switches used in a small or middle-sized network, but the distribution layer and the access layer might have multiple switches. The figure below shows where the access switches locate in a network.

The Difference Between Access Switch and Other Switches

Comparison: Access Switch vs Aggregation Switch vs Core Switch

Access Switch vs Core Switch

The lower levels the switch dwells in, the more devices it connects to. Therefore, a big gap of ports number exists in the access switch and core switch. Most access switches need to connect various end user equipment ranging from IP phone to PCs, cameras, etc,. While the core switch may be just linked with several distribution switches. Meanwhile, the higher layer the switch lies in, the faster port speed it requires. Access switch is to core switch what river is to the ocean, as the latter one has the large throughput to receive the data packets from the former one. Most modern access switches come with 10/100/1000Mbps copper ports. An example of this is FS S2800–24T4F 24 port 100/1000BASE-T copper gigabit Ethernet switch. While core switches commonly have 10Gbps and 100Gbps fiber optic ports.

Hardware comparison:

In general, access switches are boxed devices (do TOR), but also boxed (such as EOR). Box switches are small in size, have few interfaces, and are not scalable.
The aggregation switch is both frame-sized, large in size, and has a large number of interfaces. Different boards can be inserted to meet different requirements and the scalability is better.
Performance, you can think of Core Switch > Aggregation Switch > Access Switch

Hardware comparison

Functional comparison:

The access switch is used to access the terminal. The aggregation switch is used to aggregate the access switch. The core switch is used to aggregate the aggregation switch and is also responsible for connecting to the Internet.

Functional comparison

Software comparison:

All of them support basic Layer 2 protocols. Then, depending on the needs, the three switches may need to additionally support different protocols.

For example, the core switch may also support Layer 3 functions and the TRILL protocol. The aggregation switch may also support FCoE and DCB. The access switch supports the 802.1Qbg and 802.1BR protocols.

When you buy the SMB switch for your company, you should choose the most suitable switch according to the actual needs, or you may waste some money.


  1. SMB Switch: Access Switch vs Aggregation Switch vs Core Switch
  2. Cisco SMB Switches Transition Guide
  3. What Is Access Switch and Why Do We Need It?
  4. Core Switch Vs Distribution Switch Vs Access Switch
  5. Aggregation Switch
  6. Small Business Network Switches
  7. Small Business Network Switches
  8. Campus LAN Switches – Access, Catalyst Switches
  9. What Is a Core Switch and Why Do We Need It?


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