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Do Layer 3 capabilities belong in your wiring closet?

Jul 08, 20032 mins

* The Layer 3 wiring closet debate

Adding Layer 3 capabilities to wiring closet switches is getting to be very inexpensive. But that raises the question: Should you turn on those capabilities?

My colleague Phil Hochmuth touched on this question in a recent news story in Network World, where he pointed out that recent announcements from major vendors are pushing both Gigabit Ethernet and Layer 3 switching down to the wiring closet level at reasonable prices:

We’ve discussed how Gigabit Ethernet isn’t required at the desktop, but it’s going there anyway. But what about routing?

Proponents – that is, the vendors that want to sell you this stuff – say that Layer 3 capabilities at the edge improve manageability and security, offer better quality of service and have faster failover. In its recent press release, Extreme Networks said Layer 2-only switches are now “irrelevant” in enterprise networks.

Opponents say that turning on Layer 3 in the wiring closet can be administratively challenging, as there are now more routing tables and protocols to track.

Another thing to consider is that some Layer 2 switches do have advanced features, so it’s not always necessary to get full Layer 3 to get some added benefits. Also, while Layer 3 switches are cheap, Layer 2 is still cheaper.

What do you think? Are you running Layer 3 in the wiring closet, or considering it? Drop me a line at