difference between a catalyst and san switch

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Jun 3rd, 2012
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Hi Guys,

I had a very simple query. I had a very basic query. I wanted to know the difference between a switch which we connect to our campus netorks and switches connected to storage area networks. I dont mean the cost and stuff, but more into how they forward packets and the technologies. If I have a catalyst switch with 10Gb ports and a SAN switch with 10Gb ports , what would be the performance difference. what would be the difference in their forwarding mechanisms. i didnt know whether it would be correct to post this in storage or lan switching as it pertains to both hence have posted them in both forums.

Admin if you feel this is the wrong section to post it, please do delete it.

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JohnTylerPearce Sun, 06/03/2012 - 09:12
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Campus Network Switches -> Switches that allow maximum throughput, wire speed, and possibly PoE, that end users will connect too.

San Switch -> Wire Speed, Wire Speed (Must Have), 1 gig port minimum, 10 Gig ports would be preferred, Jumbo Frame support a must have.

Jeff Van Houten Sun, 06/03/2012 - 10:02
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If you are asking about an iscsi San switch, there is no difference, other than the configuration as John points out, particularly regarding frame size.

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RUSTOM BILLIMORIA Mon, 06/04/2012 - 01:04
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thanks so much for the reply guys. But am still confused. If a LAN switch would take forwarding decisions on the basis of mac addresses, that on what criteria does a SAN switch do? Is the SAN switch all about wire speed or are there other advantages too?

Dmitriy Zhiznevskiy Mon, 06/04/2012 - 01:35
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Probably, the "SAN switch" forwards FC packets. You shouldn't compare it to ethernet, it's just a completely different forwarding paradigm, with different physical connections. And yes, it may also have ethernet ports.

If you're still interested - google "fibre channel".

Joseph W. Doherty Mon, 06/04/2012 - 04:52
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Traditionally, SANs have been supported by Fiber Channel, which offer features not available in "normal" Ethernet switches.  The big difference in features is Fiber Channel works to make data transfer between devices predictable where Ethernet is "best effort".

Today there are enhanced Ethernet or Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) switches that provide Fiber Channel like features using Ethernet media.  These enhanced Ethernet switches support standard Ethernet but to take advantage of the enhanced features, the connecting devices must also have enhanced Ethernet support.


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