Hub, Bridge, Switch, Router: Defining The Functions Of These Different Devices (2001)

By Doug Jones, YAS Broadband Ventures

Hubs, Bridges, Switches and Routers all play roles in creating LANs and IP networks. This paper discusses the networking characteristics these different devices.

Thirty years ago it was antenna design. Twenty years ago it was amplifier design. Ten years ago it was fiber optics. Now, it’s the Internet. The basic building blocks of intranets and the Internet include the hub, bridge, switch, and router. These devices all have specific functions and roles to play when piecing together an IP network. The intent of this paper is to introduce each piece of equipment, describe what it does, and how it does it.

    The first three devices; hub, bridge, and

switch, are very closely related. They all operate on Ethernet frames. The fourth device, a router, operates on IP packets. The difference between a frame and a packet is semantic, having to do with which layer in the OSI protocol model a particular protocol operates. Regardless, both a frame and a packet are standardized sets of bits used to represent data.

    This paper will begin with a brief

description of the basics of Ethernet and how it works. This introduction is necessary to draw the distinctions between a hub, bridge, and switch. Next, the paper will briefly describe the Internetworking Protocol (IP) and how a router works.

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