Layer 2 vs Layer 3 Switch

A Layer 2 switch and a Layer 3 switch are both networking devices that allow for communication between devices on a network. However, they each serve a different purpose and work in different ways.

In this blog post, we will compare these two types of switches and discuss the benefits of each. By the end of this post, you should better understand the differences between layer 2 and layer 3 switches and which one is right for your needs.

Layer 2 vs Layer 3 Switch: Description

A layer 2 switch, also known as a data link layer switch, operates at the data link level of the OSI model. It is used in Local Area Networks (LAN) to connect various devices and provide efficient communication between them.

Layer 2 Switch

Layer 3 switch is a networking device that combines the functions of a switch and a router. It operates at the third layer (the network layer) of the OSI model, allowing it to route traffic between different subnets and networks while also managing data transmission within a single network.

Layer 2 switch uses Media Access Control (MAC) addresses to process and forward data within a LAN. This differs from a Layer 3 switch, which also operates at the network layer and can route data based on network addresses in addition to using MAC addresses. In practice, a combination of Layer 2 and Layer 3 switches can be used in larger networks for maximum efficiency.

Layer 3 Switch

Unlike routers, layer 2 switches do not create or break apart network packets, making them faster in processing and forwarding data. However, they cannot break apart broadcast domains or connect different LANs as routers can.

Layer 2 vs Layer 3 Switch: Pros and Cons

Both Layer 2 and Layer 3 serve the important function of connecting devices on a network and facilitating communication between them, but they operate at different levels within the network protocols.

To make deciding easier, let's talk about some of the major differences between layer 2 vs layer 3 switches.

One of the major differences when it comes to Layer 2 vs Layer 3 switches is their processing capability. Layer 2 switches operate solely on the data link layer, only reading the source and destination media access control (MAC) addresses of incoming packets. This means that they do not need to read the network layer (layer 3) addresses, which speeds up their processing time.

Layer 3 switches, on the other hand, can read both MAC and network addresses. While this adds versatility and allows for more sophisticated routing capabilities, it also slows down the processing time as compared to a purely layer 2 switch.

Layer 2 vs Layer 3 Switch: Which Is Better?

Neither Layer 3 nor Layer 2 networking is superior to the other. Both layers of the OSI have a function in network performance architecture.

A Layer 2 network, on the other hand, would be more beneficial for communicating among two computers in the same office that are close together, as opposed to a bigger network that would not be affected by congestion.

L3 network switches, on the other hand, are better for managing network traffic across multiple locations and over the internet due to their ability to route IP addresses. This underlines the importance of looking at these layers of abstraction as switches rather than routers.

Layer 2 vs Layer 3 Switch - Summary

Ultimately, the best choice depends on the needs of your specific network. A larger, more complex network may benefit from the versatility of a Layer 3 switch, while a smaller network may function better with the increased speed of a Layer 2 model.

As always, consult with networking professionals to find the best answer when it comes to Layer 2 vs Layer 3 switches. If you want to find more information about Layer 2 vs Layer 3 switches and how to configure them, you can read this guide by Cisco.

You must to check our course about Layer 2 Technologies Lab on CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure Training Lab.

 
Created by
Stanley Avery

I am a certified network engineer with over 10 years of experience in the field. I have a deep understanding of networking and IT security, and I am always looking for new challenges.

View profile

Daniel Lardeux
Daniel Lardeux Senior Network Consultant at Post Telecom

I passed the CCDE Practical exam and Orhan’s CCDE course was very important contributor to my success. I attended the CCDE course of Orhan Ergun in July and it was exactly what I needed, Orhan is taking the pain to break down the different technologies.

Roy Lexmond
Roy Lexmond Senior Network Designer at Routz CCDE #20150017 & CCIE R&S; #26557

After I attended Orhan Ergun’s CCDE course I passed the CCDE practical exam.I really enjoyed the course a lot ...

Nicholas Russo
Nicholas Russo Network Consulting Engineer (CCDE/CCIEx2), Cisc

I signed up for Orhan’s CCDE training. This training is very technically detailed and the use-cases, quizzes, scenarios, and mind maps are all great resources in the overall training program. Orhan teaches his students to think like a network designer ...

Slide Heading
Slide Heading Network Systems Engineer at Conscia A/S CCIE #42544 (SP) & CCDE #20160015

Orhan is forcing you to take off the implementation hat that most of us have been wearing for many years, instead he is providing a new fancy design hat, which makes you see and deal with the issues presented ...

Kim Pedersen
Kim Pedersen CCIE in RS and SP (#29189) CCDE#20170021

I’ve used Orhan’s self-paced CCDE training material. If you are interested in knowing how all the technologies go together in a coherent design i can highly recommend it.I also enjoyed the Quizzes which helped pick out my weak spots in selecting ...

Laurent Metzger
Laurent Metzger 3xCCIE/CCDE Senior Network Architect

Hi Orhan. I passed the CCDE exam on February 22. I read everything that you put on your Self Paced CCDE Training course and it was very helpful in my success. Thank you very much.

Martin J. Duggan
Martin J. Duggan Network Architect at AT&T;, Ciscopress Author CCDE #20160006 & CCIE#7942

I attended Orhan’s April 201610 days CCDE Bootcamp. I am CCDE now !

You can tell Orhan has a great deal of experience, it really comes through when he presents his design case studies and the CCDE Practical scenarios.

Muhammad Abubakar
Muhammad Abubakar Lead Network Architect – CCDE #20160016 2xCCIE #26693 2xJNCIE VCIX

Your excellent CCDE materials and amazing Bootcamp helped me tremendously through my learning journey.Also thank you very much for being available whenever I have a design question or a complex design topics. I can’t compare your design skills ...

Jennifer Pai
Jennifer Pai Network/Security Engineer at KNET Technology

Thanks Orhan very much for this course. It helped strengthen my “Network design mind”.

Ruslan Silyayev
Ruslan Silyayev Solution Architect at R.I.S.K Company

Training by Orhan is not a CCDE preperation training only. It will be useful for engineers which are dealing with design. You want to pass CCDE exam or learn network design, then don’t look at anywhere else!

Sameer Meher
Sameer Meher Solutions Architect at 23 Wards/Japan

Orhan Ergun’s CCDE course was really very good. CCDE Level Intelligence was delivered very well and with very useful case studies and the scenarios, I am thankful to Orhan for all his help!

Ken Young
Ken Young Senior Technical Architect Province of Nova Scotia, 2xCCIE #41597 | CCDE #20170047

If anyone wants to understand network design and architecture, also pass CCDE exam , I recommend you to attend Orhan’s online courses! I am a CCDE now but learning is a journey, we will be together in your other courses too Orhan!

Matt Cross
Matt Cross Technical Architect at Heartland – CCDE #2019::7

Orhan did an excellent job of filling in the gaps of knowledge that I had that took me to the finish line of the practical exam CCDE. The community of people that Orhan facilitates are both engaging and supportive of the journey to CCDE. Orhan ...

Shiling Ding
Shiling Ding Sentinel Technologies – CCDE #2019::12

Just passed the CCDE Practical exam! I attended Orhan Ergun’s CCDE training program , used Orhan’s Instructor Led and Self-Paced CCDE training and Online CCDE Practical Scenarios during my CCDE journey. Orhan’s CCDE In Depth book is an excellent summary ...

Abelardo Basurto
Abelardo Basurto Solutions Architect at Cisco Systems – CCDE 2018::6

Hi everyone, I’ve just passed the CCDE Exam. My Number is CCDE 2018::6 I attended to Online CCDE Bootcamp of Orhan. I want to thank Orhan not only for the great book and bootcamp, but also for his commitment, availability and willingness to assist the ...

Hady Mohamed Abdellah
Hady Mohamed Abdellah Network Architect Hamad International Airport Qatar – CCDE 2018::1

Hi guys, I’m so happy that I passed the exam. I’ve already got my number CCDE 2018::1. Thanks to Orhan for being the best CCDE instructor in the world. I highly recomend Orhan’s CCDE Training and In-Depth-CCDE ...

Bryan Bartik
Bryan Bartik Sr. Systems Engineer at CompuNet – CCDE 20170059

Hi Orhan I passed CCDE Practical exam on November 2017 ! I really enjoyed your materials and quizzes and use cases. They were definitely helpful in my preparation. Thanks a lot !

Giedrius Trapkauskas
Giedrius Trapkauskas Network Solutions Architect at Liberty Global – CCDE 20180004

I attended Orhan’s CCDE Training in Istanbul and it was very helpful in my preparation. I passed the exam recently and I want to say Thank you Orhan! For those who want to pass the CCDE exam, definitely start with ...

Alaa Issa
Alaa Issa Sr.Solutions Architect – CCDE#20180033 3xCCIE ( Collab|DC|Security )#27146

I registered to Orhan’s training in Feb 2017. From that time, I attended Orhan’s training several times. The depth of knowledge which Orhan has is amazing, and how to present such consistent knowledge to the ...

Mazin Ahsan Design Lead Engineer | Solutions Engineer | CCDE License # 20160030 | CCIE Licence # 23892

I passed the CCDE Practical Lab exam on November 17,2016 from supplications of elders and dedication from my Sensei Mr. Orhan Ergun I took different CCDE bootcamps in the past. Orhan has the most depth and expertise ...

Jeff Patterson CCDE# 2018::11

Hi Orhan I wanted to pass along my appreciation for the outstanding training material. I used the online CCDE training provided by Orhan as well as the In-Depth-CCDE book and passed the exam in February 2018. Thank you Orhan!

Mehdi Sfar
Mehdi Sfar Network and Security Architect / CCDE #20210003 | CCIE R&S; #51583

I signed up for Orhan’s CCDE Self paced Course. This course, along with the CCDE In Depth book, helped me for my CCDE Practical as well as Written exams. It pushed me to ask the "WHY" questions and allowed ...

Related courses