What are distribution switches and aggregation switches? Easy-to-understand explanation of basic network concepts

Explanation of IT Terms

What are Distribution Switches and Aggregation Switches? Easy-to-understand explanation of basic network concepts


In computer networking, distribution switches and aggregation switches play crucial roles in facilitating the flow of data between devices in a network. These switches help in organizing and optimizing the traffic within a network, ensuring efficient communication between various network segments. In this blog post, we will explore the fundamental concepts of distribution switches and aggregation switches, shedding light on their functionalities and differences.

Distribution Switches

Distribution switches, also known as access layer switches, are responsible for connecting end-user devices, such as computers, printers, and IP phones, to the network infrastructure. These switches serve as the intermediary between the access layer and the core layer of a network. Their primary purpose is to provide access to the network resources and enable communication between devices within a local network.

Distribution switches often include features like Power over Ethernet (PoE), which allows them to power devices connected to them through the Ethernet cable. They also support various network protocols, such as Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and VLANs (Virtual Local Area Networks), to provide flexibility in network configuration.

Aggregation Switches

Aggregation switches, also known as core layer switches, are responsible for aggregating the traffic from multiple distribution switches and forwarding it to the appropriate destination. These switches serve as the backbone of the network and act as the central hub for data transmission between different distribution switches, servers, and other network devices.

Aggregation switches are designed to handle a large volume of data traffic and provide high-speed connectivity. They offer features like link aggregation, which allows multiple network links to be combined to increase bandwidth and provide redundancy. Additionally, aggregation switches often support advanced routing protocols to optimize traffic flow and ensure efficient data transmission throughout the network.

Key Differences

While both distribution switches and aggregation switches are vital components of a network infrastructure, there are significant differences between them in terms of their roles and functionalities. The key differences include:

1. Connectivity: Distribution switches provide connectivity to end-user devices, while aggregation switches establish connectivity between distribution switches and other network devices.

2. Traffic Handling: Distribution switches handle traffic within a local network segment, whereas aggregation switches handle traffic between different network segments.

3. Capacity: Distribution switches typically have lower capacity and network speeds compared to aggregation switches, which are designed for high-speed data transmission.

4. Network Hierarchy: Distribution switches are located at the access layer of a network hierarchy, whereas aggregation switches are located at the core layer.


Distribution switches and aggregation switches are critical components in building a reliable and efficient network infrastructure. While distribution switches focus on providing connectivity to end-user devices, aggregation switches play a pivotal role in aggregating and directing traffic between various network segments. By understanding their functionalities and differences, network administrators can design and configure networks that meet the specific requirements of their organizations, ensuring smooth data communication and optimal network performance.

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