What is Routing and Switching, What is The Difference Between Routing and Switching

Routing and Switching are the two main functionalities and basic terminologies of computer networks.  Both routing and switching are distinct concepts with distinct functions, they are not the same thing. In this post, we are going to discuss what is routing and switching and focus on the main differences between routing and switching.

But before we get into the main topic, let me clarify that routing is used in the 3rd layer of the OSI reference model (The Network Layer) while switching is done on the 2nd layer of the OSI reference model (Data Link Layer); most of the time people used to use the term packet for the chunk of data sent as a unit over both layers, means they used to use the term packet in the both routing and switching, though it is understandable, still, it is not right. A packet is a term used to describe a chunk of data sent as a unit over layer 3 of the OSI model, while for the chunk of data sent over layer 2 we use the term Frame.

What is Switching?

When it comes to switching, the frames, or what people commonly call the data packets, stay in between devices on the same network, for example, they are sent and received in the LAN (Local Area Network). As we have already described above, switches operate at the 2nd layer of the OSI (Open System Interconnection) model. In the switching, a switching device, switch, decides where to deliver data packets or what we have called the frames. A table of mac addresses (a network adapter's physical address) is known as the MAC Address table also known as the CAM table, which keeps the record of all physical switch ports they are connected to.

Circuit switching, packet switching, and message switching are the three different types of switching procedures.

What is routing? 

We have already described that routing takes place in the 3rd layer (Network Layer) of the OSI (Open System Interconnection) reference model, where routing connects different networks at the same time. Setting a path for data packets to go through a network or across numerous networks is what the routing process is all about. The Network component of the destination IP (Internet Protocol) address is used by a Router to send a data packet. A table named Routing Table is kept by a routing device that contains all the paths to the destination network. Thus the best path to the destination network is also calculated using the information stored in this table.

If there are numerous conductors, electricity will flow through the one with the lowest resistance route. A router, on the other hand, seeks to transfer data packets through the shortest path possible while connecting several networks.

Ok, so after reading the above-detailed explanation you may have already come to understand how routing and switching differ fundamentally. But in the nutshell, the following chart could provide you a short and brief illustration of the difference between routing and switching.

Difference Between Routing and Switching



A process on the Network Layer

Processed on the Data Link Layer

A chunk of data is known as a packet

A chunk of data is known as frame

Different Network (WAN)

Same Network (LAN)

Routing Table

Mac Address table or CAM Table

Connects other network devices

Connects end devices

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