Difference between Layer 3 switch & Multilayer switch

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Jun 26th, 2010
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Dear Friends,

It will be a great help if some of you can explain me all differences between a layer 3 switch and a multilayer switch with example for both type.

thanks in advance,

Ameen Ahmed.

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Overall Rating: 3.4 (12 ratings)
Ganesh Hariharan Sat, 06/26/2010 - 23:33
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Dear Friends,

It will be a great help if some of you can explain me all differences between a layer 3 switch and a multilayer switch with example for both type.

thanks in advance,

Ameen Ahmed.


The generic widely used term multilayer switch means a switch that can do layer 2 and/or layer 3 switching on the same platform. This definition is used interchangeably with layer 3.However, multilayer switch is also used to describe switches which can make decisions on informnation in layer 4-7 as well.

Switches That forward  frames based on Layer 3 and 4 information contained in packets. This is known as multilayer switching (MLS).

A multilayer switch can have ports configured as layer 2 or layer 3. And is capable of routing packets between networks (VLANs).  A layer 3 switch is basically a router (albilty to have very fast and with a bunch of ports).

layer 3 means its capable of routing between vlans and able to join eigrp, rip and things. you can make any of the ports on the switch a routed port. this means you can use a layer3 switch exclusively as a router if you wanted to.

Hope to Help !!


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Didier1966 Sat, 06/26/2010 - 23:34
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Hi Ahmed,

Thanks to your post I learn something , I did not know a multilayer switch exist.

I only know normal switch on LAYER 2 (MAC)

And MANGAGEBLE swithces on LAYER 3 (IP)

But here on the WIKIPEDIA link you will learn all about :


I hope this will help you , and do not forget to rate this post if it was usefull

Best Regards,


thinakraj Mon, 06/28/2010 - 01:25
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L3 - IP switching

MPLS is a popularnetworking technology that uses labels attached to packets to forward them through the network

The MPLS labels are advertised between routers so that they can build a label-to-label mapping.

These labels are attached to the IP packets, enabling the routers to forward the traffic by looking at the label and not the destination IP address.

The packets are forwarded by label switching instead of by IP switching.

Baerde1234 Mon, 06/28/2010 - 02:36
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In simple terms a Multilayer Switch is a switch that operates at multiple layers of the OSI Model, normally more than the traditional Layer 2 Data Link Layer that switches traditionally use/used. A Layer 3 Switch is one which operates at Layer 3 Network Layer of the OSI and is an example of a "Multilayer Switch". Multilayer Switch is a broad definition and Layer 3 Switch is one category of Multilayer Switches. We have Multilayer Switches that work all the way upto almost Layer 7 Application, for example when using features such as Context Based Access Control I think and others I can't remember.

ameen.ahmed Mon, 06/28/2010 - 10:47
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Dear friends.. thanks for sharing details.. in short, L3 switches are a subset of multilayer switches which can work up to layer 3, where as multilayer switches can work at different layers of the osi model upto layer 7.. i hope this is ture..

could any of you point out some examples for both models?


Ameen Ahmed.

Eric Bretthauer Tue, 11/23/2010 - 10:14
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That's way too broad of a question to answer briefly Ahmed.  One thing forgotten in other posts above is that L3/MLS's cannot do NAT.  Also other series of L3/MLS switches do not work with certain routing protocols.  While the 3550/3560 are considered Multilayer switches, they can't do NAT, but a 45xx/65xx/76xx series multi-layer switch can.  The 3550's cannot use ISIS for routing protocols, and are limited for BGP due to memory constraints, i.e. full routing/partial routing tables...  You'll need to dig around for each model to find out what they can/cannot do...  Sorry to be brief, but it is a very large topic that depending on the switch model can do certain things...  

Didier1966 Tue, 11/23/2010 - 10:25
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Hi Eric,

Thank you for this VERY GOOD INFORMATION , I did not know about the NAT.

Best Regards,



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