Packet Switching

In packet switching, messages are broken down into smaller pieces called packets. Each packet is assigned source, destination, and intermediate node addresses. Packets are required to have this information because they do not always use the same path or route to get to their intended destination. Referred to as independent routing, this is one of the advantages of packet switching. Independent routing allows for a better use of available bandwidth by letting packets travel different routes to avoid high-traffic areas. Independent routing also allows packets to take an alternate route if a particular route is unavailable for some reason.

In a packet-switching system, when packets are sent onto the network, the sending device is responsible for choosing the best path for the packet. This path might change in transit, and it is possible for the receiving device to receive the packets in a random or nonsequential order. When this happens, the receiving device waits until all the data packets are received, and then it reconstructs them according to their built-in sequence numbers.

Two types of packet-switching methods are used on networks: virtual-circuit packet switching and datagram packet switching.

  • Virtual-Circuit Packet Switching When virtual-circuit switching is used, a logical connection is established between the source and the destination device. This logical connection is established when the sending device initiates a conversation with the receiving device. The logical communication path between the two devices can remain active for as long as the two devices are available or can be used to send packets once. After the sending process has completed, the line can be closed.

  • Datagram Packet Switching Unlike virtual-circuit packet switching, datagram packet switching does not establish a logical connection between the sending and transmitting devices. The packets in datagram packet switching are independently sent, meaning that they can take different paths through the network to reach their intended destination. To do this, each packet must be individually addressed to determine where its source and destination are. This method ensures that packets take the easiest possible routes to their destination and avoid high-traffic areas.