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Issue of May 2004 

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Making the network intelligent

Chandra Kopparapu, VP & General Manager, Service Provider & Multi-layer Switching Business Unit, Foundry Networks, San Jose, USA talks about how the use of Layer 4 - 7 switches can make your network more intelligent and highly available.

How can a CIO make the network more intelligent?

Layer 4 - 7 switches can make a network's (LAN, WAN, and MAN) performance more intelligent because it provides the ability to forward data and apply services based on a better understanding of the data packets in the network.

How do these switches make the difference?

These switches are essentially application-aware devices and can look deeper into data streams than standard Layer 2 switches. They can bridge the network to the servers that run the applications.

They also act as a layer of security for the network, since they usually sit in front of the servers. And in-built SNMP capabilities allow them to be managed by regular network management applications like CA's Unicenter and HP's OpenView.

Does it mean that Layer 2 and 3 switches will be phased out?

Layer 2 and 3 switches will always co-exist with Layer 4 - 7 switches. But companies will prefer to use more Layer 4 - 7 switches due to the benefits they provide. The devices know if the server and the application are running well or not, and accordingly distribute the load, to prevent unnecessary downtime.

Which industry verticals will prefer to use Layer 4 - 7 switches?

Industry verticals like telecom service providers, BFSI, entertainment, and healthcare usually need to deploy such devices in their networks.

—Soutiman Das Gupta

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