What is switching in computer networking?

What is switching and its types?

An internet is a switched network in which a switch connects at least two links together. A switch needs to forward data from a network to another network when required. In computer networking, there are primarily three types of switching.

Types of switching in computer networking

  1. Packet Switching
  2. Circuit Switching
  3. Message switching

Packet Switching :

In packet switching, data is divided into smaller packets before transmission. Each packet contains a portion of the data, along with addressing information (source and destination addresses). Packets are independently routed through the network and may take different paths to reach the destination. At the destination, packets are reassembled to reconstruct the original data. Internet Protocol (IP) networks use packet switching, where data is transmitted in discrete units (IP packets) across the network.

Circuit Switching :

In circuit switching, a dedicated communication path is established between the source and destination before data transmission. The connection remains in place for the entire duration of the session. Once the connection is established, data flows without any interruptions, and resources are reserved for that specific session. Commonly used in traditional telephone networks (PSTN – Public Switched Telephone Network) where a dedicated circuit is allocated for a phone call.

Message Switching :

Message switching is an older form of data transmission. Data is divided into larger units called messages, with headers containing addressing information. Each message is temporarily stored at each intermediate node before being forwarded to the next node along the path to the destination. It is less efficient than packet switching due to message buffering and queuing at each node. Examples of message-switching protocols include X.400 email systems, which were used in the past but have been largely replaced by more efficient packet-based email protocols.

Difference Between Circuit Switching and Packet Switching and Message Switching

Switching TypeCircuit SwitchingPacket SwitchingMessage Switching
OperationDedicated communication path between source and destination until the session endsData is divided into packets that are independently routed to the destinationData is divided into messages with headers, stored temporarily at each intermediate node
EfficiencyLess efficient as resources are
reserved for the entire duration of
the session
More efficient as packets can share
network resources and take
different paths
Moderately efficient, but not as
efficient as packet switching due to message buffering
Resource UsageHigher resource utilization due to
dedicated circuits
Better resource utilization as
bandwidth is shared among packets
Moderate resource utilization with message buffering at each node
DelayLow delay as the connection is
established before data transmission
Higher delay due to packet headers
and possible queuing
Moderate delay due to message
headers and temporary storage
ScalabilityLimited scalability for a large
number of connections
Highly scalable for large networks and varying trafficModerately scalable, but not as
flexible as packet switching
Error HandlingCircuit disruption can cause
complete session failure
Errors can be handled through
retransmission and error detection
Errors can be addressed through
retransmission or requesting the
entire message again
ExamplesTraditional telephone networks
Internet Protocol (IP) networksX.400 email systems
Circuit Switching VS Packet Switching VS Message Switching

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