Knowledge vs. Wisdom: What You Need to Know About Switched Ethernet

Knowledge is a term used to describe an accumulation of knowledge through education and experience. Knowledge is important, but isn’t not the ultimate measure of intelligence. Some people have endless knowledge, but lack the ability to use it in a manner that benefits themselves or others.

Wisdom, on the other hand, is how you use the knowledge you have acquired and a working knowledge of the areas in which you are ignorant. Knowing what you don’t know gives you the ability to realize when you need to ask for help and what areas you are most at-risk of making a mistake.

One real-life application where the difference between knowledge and wisdom often comes into play is when IT professionals must address switched Ethernet solutions.

An ethernet solution may sound good up-front because the price is great and the bandwidth is high, but what you don’t know about these connections could cost you on the back-end when it comes to supporting them.

First and foremost, you should understand you were sold switched Ethernet, which in this case normally means you will traverse multiple layer 2 switches (think OSI model) before reaching your service provider’s network access port that you are connected to, which is normally where most of your SLA’s start at.

Let’s break that down.

For instance, if any one of those intermediate layer 2 switches goes down, then your link at layer 2 will stay up. If you are doing static routing of your traffic across this connection, you will be shoving traffic into a big black hole because it will only get as far as the layer 2 switch before hitting a dead-end at the one that is broken.

In the engineering world, we call this “black holing traffic,” which really means sending it down a path that has no connection.

We can fix this issue with switched Ethernet with one or two methods pretty quickly.

The primary solution is to run a routing protocol over the link at layer 3 — or, if you are stuck with doing static routes, place a track on the routes to ensure the next hop address is alive at layer 3.


With switched Ethernet, you are on this big web of switches before you get to your service provider’s port (this could be an Internet Port, MPLS Port, Virtual Private Line Port, etc.). Off course on this web of switches is hundreds of other users fighting for bandwidth to their service provider’s port, which is where the next big problem comes into play.

Why don’t I get 100 megs of bandwidth all the time? 

When you have hundreds of users with 100 meg or greater ports on a maximum of a 10 gig backbone, you begin to understand why your access connection has an SLA for availability only.

Don’t you just love having a connection that is up, but you can put traffic down it? 

When you are looking at that new access connection for Internet, MPLS, and heaven forbid a Virtual Private Line, and it is using Ethernet, make sure you ask and review the fine print to ensure it is not switched Ethernet. If it is, at least you know ahead of time what you’re getting into and how to get around some of the common pitfalls.

Knowledge is power, and wisdom is the ability to use that power for your benefit.

We aren’t saying that switched Ethernet solutions don’t have a place in the market, but you do need to go into a deployment with eyes wide open to fully comprehend exactly what you’re paying for and what common pitfalls it may have.

Need help? Consult the network solution experts at Wired Networks.

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