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Is there any difference between the normal switch and the WAN Switch? because i read that the WAN switch operate at layer 2 of the OSI model, so what makes it different from the normal switch? is it capable of handling a particular type of traffic?

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I would say that nowadays this term is a bit vague. WAN is just a logical role you assign to a device. The backend technology is now 99% of the time Ethernet so in reality, WAN becomes just a logical block. Back in the days there were different backhaul technologies, xDSL, Frame Relay, ATM, etc. WAN switch was typically an ATM device (or at least this is what pops back in my head when I hear it)

Nowadays WAN is rather Layer3 transit which provides you connectivity using IP routing from one geographical location (DC) to another. WAN devices typically are routers, but can also be Layer3 switches (called multi layer switch). In other words, you can have exactly the same switch (e.g. Arista 7280) acting as Layer2 Top-of-Rack switch, aggregation (layer3), WAN or even peer-exchange switch, holding the entire routing table (880k+ routes). Some of these switches even do support MPLS, which is considered to be standard, Service Provider grade technology, used to build WAN networks.

Another typical function of the WAN is QoS. Here is where typically most routers may do better job than most switches. Routers often have more hardware queues, better qos handling enhanced Layer3 support and last but definitely not least - encryption (IPSec which is another typical function of the WAN).

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  • Yeah the old wan switches mostly ran a atm or sdh backbone and terminated frame relay and other edge services, I did a lot of work on the stratacom switches when Cisco bought them, it was interesting times and fun to work on the line side of things – Matt Douhan Jun 8 at 1:03
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Switches generally operate on L2 as multi-port bridges and may include features on other layers. A "WAN switch" is not a specific type of device, but a role label - a switch that you install into your WAN zone.

It's not any different from other switches apart from specific requirements that might be present in that WAN zone. Those may include: fiber termination, MPLS termination, L3 switching/routing, ACL-based filtering, traffic shaping, or NAT.

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  • Tell to old stratacom and people like me who have the old CCIE wan switching lol, frame relay switches and stuff those were the days :) – Matt Douhan Jun 7 at 18:33
  • ;-) Oh yes - but I wasn't looking back that far. But maybe the OP did? – Zac67 Jun 7 at 18:59

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