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Why and when do you need an Industrial Layer 3 switch?

When should you use an Industrial Layer 3 switch?

What is a Layer 3 switch?

To put it simply, a Layer 3 switch combines the functionalities of both a switch and a router and operates as a switch, efficiently linking devices within the same subnet or Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN), all the while integrating IP routing intelligence to function as a router. It can support routing protocols, analyze incoming data packets, and make routing decisions based on source and destination addresses. In today's highly interconnected environments, intricate enterprise networks often encompass numerous subnets and Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs), necessitating the inclusion of a Layer 3 switch.

Layer 3 Switch Features

  • Virtual LAN (VLAN) Segmentation:
    Enables network admins to perform domain segmentation with different attributes, ensuring isolation between different departments or users, enhancing data privacy and management security.

  • IP Routing:
    Provides greater flexibility in network architecture, allowing seamless communication between subnets.

  • Dynamic Routing:
    Supports OSPF and RIP dynamic routing protocols, enabling automatic routing table management for rapid, stable network expansion and adaptive path adjustments for optimal connectivity.
  • Load Balancing:
    Facilitates traffic distribution, ensuring high availability of servers and applications, reducing latency, and improving performance.

  • Security:
    Allows the implementation of advanced security measures, such as firewalls and Access Control Lists (ACLs), to protect the network from potential attacks and threats.

  • Multi-Protocol Support:
    Does not only support IPv4 but also IPv6, ensuring seamless transition for future network migration and improving interconnectivity of subnets.

  • Quality of Service (QoS) Support:
    Allocates bandwidth for critical applications, ensuring priority for important traffic and enhancing overall network performance.

What is the purpose of Layer 3 switches?

Layer 3 routing protocol is becoming more and more important to industrial network topologies, such as intelligent transportation management and applications related to urban infrastructure. Industrial applications normally work with a variety of industrial devices within an isolated network, with few monitoring interfaces at the field site. However, as connectivity demands continue to grow in the IIoT era, the number of connected edge devices is continuing to grow, resulting in an increased need of network bandwidth and organization. This reveals new network management challenges, and also raises new issues in data security.

Traditional Layer 2 logic subnetting faces practical and performance limitations when applied to topologies with a large number of devices. To ensure flexible industrial application planning, Layer 3 devices have been introduced into advanced management, with a host of features that are quickly becoming “must haves”.

How Industrial Layer 3 switches can benefit your network

  • Robust and Secure Design for a Wide Range of Conditions

    - EtherWAN’s Industrial switches are built to withstand extreme temperatures ranging from -40 to 75°C (-40 to 167°F)
    - Dual power, redundant firmware, and redundancy protocols allow for uninterrupted data transfer

  • Better Network Performance with Fiber Scalability

    - Hardware routing for greater network performance
    - Multiple dual-rate SFP and SFP+ uplink ports to support a variety of fiber interconnections and network topology flexibility

    Layer 3 switches are most commonly used to support routing between VLANs, because different areas, intersections or types of data (video, image, and signals) need to be partitioned. With more IP cameras being installed at intersections, the purpose for the traffic management may differ, for example, identifying vehicle license plate or speed. This means that switch management must be simple, secure, provided high performance, and that network faults can be isolated quickly.

  • Rich Layer 3 Routing Protocol

    - OSPF and RIP routing protocol support for optimal network routing
    - Support for L3 IPv4/IPv6 unicasting or multicasting (PIM-SM/DM) routing to gain better networks latency
    - VRRP prevents your system from failing by dynamically backing up multiple L3 switches for routing

    The Advantages of Layer 3 Routing protocol:

    • Eliminates the need for implementing STP on the distribution system.
    • Shrinks the Layer 2 fault domain, thus minimizing the number of denial-of-service (DoS)/distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.
    • Bandwidth efficiency-improves Layer 3 uplink bandwidth by suppressing Layer 2 broadcasts at the edge port.
    • Improves overall collapsed core and distribution resource utilization.

Choose a right Layer 3 switch for your industrial network







IG5 Rack




( for up to 64 VLANs )
(Routing for more than 65 VLANs)
Max. number of routes64 entriesL3 unicast (IPv4): 8192 (8K)
L3 unicast (IPv6): 2048 (2K)
L3 multicast (IPv4): 8192 (8K)
IPv4 routingStatic route, RIP v2, OSFP v2Static route, RIP v2, OSPF v2
RIPng, OSPF v3
PIM-DM v6 / PIM-SM v6
IPv4 Multicast routingN/APIM-DM / PIM-SM
IPv6 routingN/ARIPng, OSPF v3
IPv6 Multicast routingN/APIM-DM v6 / PIM-SM v6
Virtual router redundancyVRRPVRRP
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Choosing between Layer 2 and Layer 3 switches

For small networks where the volume of data transmitted is not too great and there is no need to connect multiple VLANs, Layer 2 switches are ideal. For larger networks, networks needing VLAN connectivity, or in situations where enhanced security is required, a Layer 3 switch is the way to go. Most networks use a combination of Layer 2 and Layer 3 switches to optimize cost and performance.

A Layer 2 managed switch is designed to forward traffic between network hosts within the same subnet, based on the entries in its MAC address table. On the other hand, a Layer 3 managed switch is capable of forwarding traffic between different subnets, using a map of the IP network maintained in its routing table. In other words, if you need to send traffic between devices on different subnets, you will need a Layer 3 switch. It's important to carefully consider your networking needs and choose the right type of managed switch to ensure smooth and efficient operation.