Stackable Switch or Chassis Switch On the Network Edge?

Network edge infrastructures can collect, transmit and record data passing the network. The infrastructures include gateways, routers, and switches. The switches on the network edge are located at the meeting point of two networks. The edge switches are closer to end-user than the backbone of the network. When it comes to choosing between a stackable switch and chassis switch for the network edge, it may be difficult for you to make a decision. This article will provide you with some points about choosing between stackable switches and chassis switches on the network edge.

What is a Stackable Switch?

As the name suggests, a stackable switch not only can operate alone but also can be connected with another stackable network switch. Stack cables, transceivers & patch cables, and DAC cables play important roles in connecting stackable switches. Generally speaking, the maximum number of switches in a stack depends on the brand and the type of stackable switches. For example, FS S3800 stackable switches support up to 4 switches stacking. The group of switches can be configured as one unit for they all share the same IP address. By setting up a group of stackable switches, you can add extra available ports on your switches. And they can operate like one single switch. So stackable switch solution is popular for its flexibility and simplicity.


With stackable switches, you don’t need to keep large amount redundant ports at very first. For example, you just need to add a new stackable Gigabit Ethernet switch on the stack when you require more 1G ports. Besides, various types and speeds of stackable switches can meet your different needs of ports.


Adding a new stackable switch to a stack is not a big deal. By using stack cables, transceivers & patch cables, and DAC cables, you can connect the individual switches as one entity in several minutes. More than that, the stack of switches can be managed as one single switch for they share the same IP address.

Figure1: stackable switch

What is a Chassis Switch?

Different from a stackable switch, a chassis switch works with various line cards. So it can provide different types and large amounts of ports that are required. A chassis switch has a certain number of fixed slots which are used to place line card of different types. By inserting extra line cards into a chassis switch, you can have more available ports. For example, you can insert both a line card with 100G ports and a line card with 10G ports in one chassis switch. Then the chassis switch has both the function of a 100GbE switch and the function a 10GbE switch. Besides, both the line cards with copper ports and that with fiber optical ports can be inserted into one chassis switch. Chassis switches are widely used for its consolidation and unified management.


Stackable switches are individual switches connected by cables and transceivers. While a chassis switch is one switch with various line cards and modules. It has its own system and even a firewall. A stackable switch has its common backplane, power supply modules, common processing modules and etc.

Unified Management

You can use only one application to manage all the line cards in a chassis switch. Besides, if you want to update the program of a chassis switch, you just need to update the only one application of the chassis. The unified management of chassis switches makes management more convenient and time-saving.

Stackable Switch vs Chassis Switch: Which to Choose on the Network Edge?

The switches using on the network edge connect directly to the end user devices. So they need to have high port density and low costs. Stackable switches and chassis switches have many characters in common. They both have many available ports, centralized management, and the possibility of adding ports in the future. But when it comes to choosing between them, there are three factors you need to consider, including reliability, flexibility, and longevity.


Reliability is a significant character of an edge switch. When a stackable switch in one stack comes to a problem and goes out of order, you need to unhook the connection and take it out of the rack. Then you need to put a new one on the rack and connect the new one with other stackable switches. It is more time consuming than using a chassis switch. Because many line cards in a chassis switch are hot-swappable. When it comes to the breakdown of one line card, you just need to pull the line card out and insert a new one in. And then the chassis switch will operate normally again. Besides, a chassis switch has better air flow and a bigger power supply than stackable switches. So a chassis switch may be less possible to break down than stackable switches.


The edge of a network is like the branches of a tree. So the flexibility of edge switches is important. Both stackable switches and chassis switches can offer the combination of different port speed and transmission types. But chassis switches can only be used with the equipment produced by a certain vendor. While stackable switches are more flexible on brands. Besides, unlike a stackable switch, there is no self-sufficient operation for individual line cards in a chassis switch. Last but not least, a chassis switch may occupy more rack space than stackable switches when the number of used ports is not that much.


The longevity of edge switches may influence the costs in the long run. Chassis based switches tend to have a longer lifespan than stackable switches. When you want to improve the speed of one port from 1 Gigabit to 10 Gigabit on a stackable switch, you have no choice but to buy a new switch. If you use a chassis switch, you just need to remove a Gigabit port line card and insert a 10 Gigabit port line card. Then you go with the same old chassis switch. Although chassis switches have higher initial investment than stackable switches, chassis switches have a longer lifespan.


This article focuses on the introduction of stackable switches and chassis switches, and some considerations about choosing between stackable switches and chassis switches on the network edge, including reliability, flexibility, and longevity. If you need a little more help and advice with stackable switch and chassis switch, then please do not hesitate to let us know.

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