In networks with on-premises data centers and large branch offices in particular, enterprises need switches that can quickly transfer traffic, monitor data, and enable their cloud growth.
Several networking vendors provide switches for enterprises in software-defined networking (SDN) environments that can be remotely provisioned and configured and implemented with policies set by network administrators.
Those switches can support security, automation, and analytics to help enterprises protect their data and applications as well as provide information on network traffic that they can use to further improve the network.
See below to learn about enterprise switches and some of the top switch vendors in the market:
Top Enterprise Switches
- Features of enterprise network switches
- Benefits of enterprise network switches
- Top enterprise network switches
- Enterprise network switches comparison
- Enterprise network switch use cases
- What to look for in enterprise network switches
Features of enterprise network switches
Enterprise switch platforms typically include the following key features:
- Analytics: Administrators are able to view information on switch performance, such as system errors and security vulnerabilities.
- Management console: Through a single pane of glass, network operators configure and update switches.
- Monitoring: Enterprise switches monitor and record packets that make requests, scanning them for threats.
- Automation: When admins set policies, such as security or traffic rules, software-defined switches implement those policies automatically in response to network traffic behavior.
- Policies for network segmentation: Of the many policies that admins can set, segmentation is one of the most critical for enterprises. It’s one of the best ways to halt an attacker’s lateral movement through a network, and it helps build a better access control methodology overall.
Benefits of enterprise network switches
Enterprise switches help network operators and administrators manage the network’s devices. A single console — to manage connected switches that all work together and monitor and secure points on the network — consolidates work for network admins.
They also connect the entire network. Enterprise switches are intended to manage traffic for remote offices and user edge devices. Many enterprise switch platforms also extend to data center technology.
Switches impose the network’s security policies at their level. Any policy that network admins have set for traffic passing through a switch is implemented automatically on software-defined networks.
Top enterprise network switches
Cisco Meraki is a networking solution with a cloud-based single-pane-of-glass management console. The Meraki dashboard allows network administrators to manage the rest of the network portfolio, including access points and cloud-managed security cameras. For enterprises that heavily focus on surveillance or have multiple offices that need to be secured, Meraki switches belong to a portfolio that provides unified management for smart security devices as well.
Meraki network admins are able to configure thousands of ports at the same time through zero-touch provisioning. The MS390-48, for instance, is a Layer 3 network switch with a Dynamic Host Configuration (DHCP) server and DHCP snooping, a technology that can be configured to filter DHCP traffic in case of malicious behavior. Administrators receive email alerts when problems with switches arise. They also receive per-port and per-client port usage statistics.
Meraki switches integrate with the IT service management tool ServiceNow. Enterprises that already use ServiceNow will be able to import data from Meraki switches into records within the IT management platform. Within ServiceNow, users can track incidents that arise on Meraki devices.
- MS390 switch that supports DHCP traffic filtering
- Single management console for all Meraki devices, including smart cameras
- Integration with Meraki software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN)
- Integrations with IT service management tools ServiceNow and ConnectWise
HPE Aruba CX Portfolio
Aruba, owned by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), offers access and aggregation switches and data center and campus core switches. Aruba AOS-CX, an operating system for its CX portfolio, provides oversight and management for switches at all branch offices and data centers on the network.
Aruba Network Analytics Engine (NAE) is a tool that monitors network performance and notifies administrators regarding configuration changes; NAE allows admins to troubleshoot issues within the network, using Python, CLI, and REST APIs.
Aruba also offers the Fabric Composer, a software-defined orchestration tool for leaf-spine network provisioning and rack-scale infrastructure operations. Fabric Composer works with other HPE products, too, like SimpliVity and iLO. This broadens the range of devices that network operators have access to through Aruba CX switches. Fabric Composer reveals data about switches, like health status and inventory.
The Fabric Composer dashboard provides API-level integrations with solutions, like Nutanix and VMware vSphere. For businesses with many virtual machines on the network, Aruba Fabric Composer allows users to manage the network fabric from a VMware console, too.
- Aruba Fabric Composer for orchestrating data center network operations
- Aruba Network Analytics Engine for network monitoring based on configuration changes
- API-level integration
- Aruba Virtual Switching Extension for high availability
- Aruba NetEdit for switch configuring and troubleshooting
Also read: Best Network Monitoring Tools
Cisco Catalyst 9000 Series
The Cisco Catalyst 9000 series, designed for hybrid work environments, has multiple choices for enterprises with varying sizes of branch locations. The 9000 switches run on a programmable operating system called Cisco IOS XE Software, which supports the Cisco DNA Center.
The Cisco DNA Center is a network controller and management hub for network administrators and operators. It has 3D wireless maps that provide topographical network views. Businesses can implement network segmentation and gain better understanding about the segments through group-based policy analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) policy analytics. The DNA Center also allows businesses to test hardware compatibility with the newest Wi-Fi standard.
Cisco offers multiple Catalyst switches. The 9200 series is for enterprises that have smaller branch locations; the 9600 and 9600X are designed for enterprises with larger campuses. The 9600 has high-availability features, like hot patching and in-service software upgrade (ISSU). It also includes security features, such as Talos threat intelligence and MacSec encryption.
- Zero-trust network policies that businesses can implement
- Cisco DNA Center management console for overseeing all assets on the network
- 3D wireless maps that reveal heat map metrics for KPIs
- Embedded threat intelligence and encryption within the Catalyst 9600
Also read: Top Network Access Control (NAC) Solutions
Juniper Networks EX Series
Juniper Networks’ EX Series of Ethernet switches is designed for high performance in branches, campuses, and data centers. Both access and distribution switches are available in the EX series. The EX series covers a range of networking needs, including smaller networks, low-density data center environments, and critical applications.
The EX4400 and EX4400 Multigigabit switches are notable for their AI power: they work with Mist AI, Juniper’s solution that combines AI, machine learning (ML), and data science. Mist AI uses data from Juniper devices, including switches, and facilitates operations, like automated event correlation and proactive anomaly detection.
For enterprises that regularly stream video, the EX3400 is specifically designed for data, voice, and video enterprise access networks. It also integrates with the Mist platform, including Juniper Mist Cloud, which helps businesses deploy and manage their network fabrics.
Users are able to combine EX switches with Juniper’s Wi-Fi solutions, for both wired and wireless connections.
- Mist AI for EX4400 switches
- Mist Cloud, which enables SD-WAN technology and real-time threat intelligence
- Switches designed for high performance and critical workloads
- Option of both wired and wireless connections with Juniper’s Wi-Fi solution
Arista Networks Cloud Networking Portfolio
Arista Networks offers multiple modular spine switches in its cloud networking portfolio, designed for data centers, cloud environments, and campuses. Arista’s operating system for its network architecture, EOS, allows customers to program it on all layers, including eAPI and Linux.
Spine switches, designed for data center networks, connect access switches within the data center, allowing all traffic from switches to be connected. Arista has multiple families of spine switches, including the 7800R3 series and the 7500R3 series. The 7800R3 series is for highest performance data center networks, particularly for cloud and service providers.
Arista Converged Cloud Fabric (CCF) is a self-service solution for both leaf and spine switches; it enables networks to underlay hyperconverged infrastructures (HCIs), like VMware vSphere and vSAN and Nutanix. Arista’s Multi-Cloud Director (MCD) is a management platform for the CCF and Arista DANZ Monitoring Fabric products, allowing network admins to handle multi-site network deployments.
- Specialty in spine switches
- Programmable operating system
- Multi-Cloud Director solution for managing multiple network deployments and multiple data centers in one location
- Integration with VMware vSphere and Nutanix HCIsolutions
Enterprise network switches comparison
|Threat intelligence or protection||Built-in artificial intelligence||Performance monitoring||Zero trust network policies|
Some features belong to other solutions within the vendors’ portfolio.
Enterprise network switch use cases
“Last year, we virtualized our data center. … As our physical servers will host hundreds of virtual servers and desktops, it is mandatory that our core management network be reliable. Aruba switches have 10 GB ports in each port, and you can stack switches for more throughput and minimize the management overhead. If you have multiple switches in many offices, you can manage them all centrally with the unified cloud management, which is a cloud-based web interface. You won’t need to know your CLI in order to do advanced configuration, as you can still configure it using the GUI.” -regional system officer in the insurance industry, review of HPE Aruba switches at Gartner Peer Insights
“As part of our data center refresh project, we had to refresh our fleet of top-of-rack switches across two data centers from HPE to Arista. This solution was part of a longer-term strategy of refreshing the core switches stack from Cisco Nexus to Arista spine and leaf technology. As a result, rather than having multiple vendor capabilities or inconsistencies in two data centers, we limited to one vendor and kept the overall manageability simple. This introduced the entire team to automation by automating switch deployment using the Cloudvision tool. The overall deployment was deemed as one of the most smooth and efficient migration activities ever experienced by the organization, starting from tender process to operational handover.” -senior consultant in the professional services industry, review of Arista switches at Gartner Peer Insights
What to look for in enterprise network switches
If your business plans to purchase new switches, consider whether they have the following features:
Built-in security: Security tools, such as threat intelligence, encryption, or access controls, are no longer optional for networks — they’re critical. If the switch doesn’t come with any security features, make sure that it integrates with a variety of cybersecurity software.
An easy-to-navigate management console: A single dashboard is the hallmark of modern enterprise software, because it makes a network simpler to visualize and prevents admins from having to continually move between applications. It should also be intuitive to navigate.
Cloud readiness: Many enterprise switch platforms are cloud-managed or cloud-based; ensure that they support the cloud environments your business uses.
Read next: Best SD-WAN Solutions and Providers