Crossbar Switch

Definition of Crossbar Switch

A crossbar switch is a telecommunication and digital computer technology that enables multiple input lines to be connected to multiple output lines in a non-blocking, configurable matrix. It consists of a grid of horizontal and vertical conductors with a switch element at each intersection that can rapidly link or unlink the intersecting lines. This system allows for simultaneous and independent connections between multiple input and output lines, improving the efficiency in signal routing and information exchange.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Crossbar Switch” is: /ˈkrɔsˌbɑr ˈswɪʧ/ Here’s the breakdown of each component:- Crossbar: KR-OH-SS-BAR, where “K” sounds as in “cat,” “R” as in “rat,” “O” as in “oh,” “S” as in “snake,” “B” as in “bat,” “A” as in “car,” and the second “R” as in “rat.”- Switch: SW-I-CH, where “S” sounds as in “snake,” “W” as in “wall,” “I” as in “bit,” and “CH” as in “chair.”

Key Takeaways

  1. Crossbar switch is a telecommunication system that provides a direct connection between any two devices in a network by creating a temporary “crossbar” connection.
  2. It has fast switching capabilities and is highly reliable, making it ideal for large-scale networks with multiple connections.
  3. Crossbar switches can be easily expanded to accommodate growing network demands, ensuring scalability and future-proofing for network operators.

Importance of Crossbar Switch

The technology term “Crossbar Switch” is important because it revolutionized telecommunications by enabling more efficient, rapid, and reliable switching of telephone calls in networks.

Invented in the 1930s, the crossbar switch represented a significant leap from earlier switch designs, such as the Strowger switch, by using electromechanical components to establish connections between input and output lines through an array of horizontal and vertical bars.

This allowed for simultaneous and non-blocking call routing, which greatly improved call capacity and reduced congestion in telephone networks.

With this innovation, the crossbar switch laid the groundwork for modern digital switching systems and has contributed to the development of more advanced communication infrastructures.


Crossbar switches play a crucial role in the telecommunications and computing industry, as they facilitate the efficient handling of large amounts of data traffic. The main purpose of a crossbar switch is to establish multiple concurrent point-to-point connections between different input and output ports, allowing for high-speed and congestion-free data transfer. This switching mechanism has its roots in early telephone exchange systems, where it was used to establish direct connections between callers.

Today, however, crossbar switches are employed in a wide variety of applications, including internet routers, network switches, and parallel processing systems in high-performance computers. One of the defining features of crossbar switches is their ability to provide seamless and flexible data routing without the need for multiple stages of switching elements. This is enabled through a grid-like structure, consisting of a series of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines, which can be interconnected or disconnected as needed.

As a result, crossbar switches are capable of avoiding bottlenecks and reducing the latency associated with data transmission. Furthermore, they offer a level of redundancy which ensures that crucial data can still be transmitted even if certain elements within the switch are damaged or inactive. In summary, a crossbar switch is a versatile and high-performing technology, facilitating fast and reliable data routing across a broad spectrum of industries and applications.

Examples of Crossbar Switch

Telecommunication Exchanges: Crossbar switches have been widely used in telecommunication exchanges to route voice calls between subscribers. This analog switching technology enabled a large number of subscribers to interconnect by establishing a dedicated path through the switch for the duration of each call. One notable example of such an exchange was the 1ESS, developed by Western Electric in the US, which was the first fully-electronic crossbar switching system.

Data Center Networking: In data center environments, crossbar switches can be found in high-performance server racks and storage systems. With multiple servers or storage devices connected, it is necessary to efficiently route data between these elements without causing contention. One example in this context is the use of crossbar switches in the IBM System x3530 M4 server, where they provide high-speed data connections between processors, memory, and I/O subsystems.

High-performance Computing: Crossbar switches are integral to the design of some high-performance computing (HPC) systems. HPC systems often comprise large numbers of processing elements that need to exchange data efficiently during computations. Crossbar switching technology can provide the low-latency, scalable interconnection required in these systems. The Cray XT5 HPC system is one example that employed a crossbar switch to interconnect its processors and memory banks to ensure optimal performance.

FAQ – Crossbar Switch

What is a crossbar switch?

A crossbar switch is a network switching device that connects multiple inputs to multiple outputs in a matrix configuration. It allows simultaneous connection of multiple input and output points without interference. Crossbar switches are commonly used in telecommunication systems, data center networks, and in some integrated circuits.

What are the advantages of using a crossbar switch?

Some advantages of using a crossbar switch include:
1. High switching capacity
2. Simultaneous connections without interference
3. Minimal signal attenuation or loss
4. Scalability
5. Fast and efficient signal routing
6. Improved reliability

How does a crossbar switch work?

A crossbar switch works by allowing any input line to be connected to any output line in a matrix arrangement. When a connection is established between an input and an output, it forms a crosspoint. The switch can handle multiple concurrent connections by enabling multiple crosspoints at the same time. The crosspoints are actuated electronically or via software control, enabling fast and efficient signal routing.

What are some common applications of crossbar switches?

Crossbar switches are widely used in various applications, such as:
1. Telecommunication systems for routing telephone calls and data traffic
2. Data center networks for connecting servers and storage devices
3. Integrated circuits and multiprocessor systems for interconnecting various components
4. Video and audio routing in broadcasting and production facilities

What are the differences between a crossbar switch and a packet switch?

While both crossbar switches and packet switches are used to route data in networks, they differ in the way they handle the data. Crossbar switches route signals in their original form through a matrix configuration, whereas packet switches divide the data into smaller units called packets and route them individually through the network. Crossbar switches provide dedicated paths for each connection, ensuring low-latency and minimal signal loss, while packet switches dynamically share network resources, which may result in varying latency and potential congestion.

Related Technology Terms

  • Non-blocking switch
  • Matrix switch
  • Telecommunications switching
  • Space-division switching
  • Scalability

Sources for More Information


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