Data Link Switching

Definition of Data Link Switching

Data Link Switching (DLS) is a networking technology that enables communication between routers over a data link protocol, such as Frame Relay or ATM. It creates virtual connections, or data links, which facilitate the transfer of data between routers. This ensures a reliable and efficient communication pathway, even in the presence of multiple routes or complex network structures.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Data Link Switching” is:- Data: /ˈdeɪ.tə/ or “DAY-tuh”- Link: /lɪŋk/ or “lihngk”- Switching: /ˈswɪtʃ.ɪŋ/ or “SWI-ching”

Key Takeaways

  1. Data Link Switching (DLS) provides a way to encapsulate higher-level protocols, like IBM’s System Network Architecture (SNA), over different data link layer protocols for secure and reliable multi-protocol routing.
  2. DLS uses Data Link Control (DLC) protocol identifiers and Switch-to-Switch Protocol (SSP) frames to establish communication paths between devices on the network while maintaining a low overhead on bandwidth usage and improving overall performance.
  3. Data Link Switching offers benefits like simplifying node addressing, facilitating complex networking topologies, and providing better error recovery and fault tolerance, making it well-suited for large-scale enterprise environments and mission-critical applications.

Importance of Data Link Switching

Data Link Switching (DLS) is an important technology term as it refers to a vital aspect of communication in networking, which ensures seamless and efficient data transmission between devices.

DLS enables the routing of data packets directly between Layer 2 devices, such as switches, thereby improving the overall performance of the network by reducing latency and processing load on routers.

By allowing data traffic to bypass Layer 3 routing, DLS optimizes network resources, provides higher throughput, and supports various communication protocols and interfaces.

Due to these benefits, Data Link Switching plays a crucial role in modern networking infrastructure, ensuring efficient and reliable data exchange in diverse environments.


Data Link Switching (DLSw) serves a crucial role in efficiently managing data communication across a Wide Area Network (WAN). Its primary purpose is to facilitate seamless communication between various devices, systems, and networks that utilize differing protocols. In a world where a gamut of technologies strives to work together, DLSw is an indispensable solution that ensures the interoperability of legacy network protocols with modern communication environments.

An essential advantage of Data Link Switching is its ability to transport non-IP traffic, such as SNA (Systems Network Architecture) or NetBIOS, over IP networks. As a result, organizations can integrate their existing infrastructure, reducing the need for a complete overhaul.

One notable application of DLSw comes into play in the financial sector, where numerous banks and institutions rely on legacy systems and protocols. By leveraging Data Link Switching, these institutions can effectively maintain their crucial older systems while still engaging with emerging technologies.

Furthermore, DLSw’s intelligent path selection ensures optimal utilization of network resources, significantly improving the overall performance. Consequently, this encourages smoother transitions and adaptability, fostering growth within organizations and industries that heavily invest in rich networking capabilities.

Examples of Data Link Switching

Data Link Switching (DLSw) is a technology that enables communication between devices in different local area network (LAN) segments by establishing virtual circuits across a wide area network (WAN).

Retail Store Chain: A retail store chain with multiple outlets spread across different geographical locations can use Data Link Switching to establish secure and reliable communication between their Point of Sale (POS) systems. This allows the central database to efficiently manage inventory, pricing, and financial information, ensuring smooth transactions and reducing inventory management costs.

Airline Operations: Airlines utilize Data Link Switching technology to establish seamless communication between their airport check-in counters, boarding gates, baggage-handling systems, and flight operations control centers. This centralization enables efficient coordination of flight schedules, baggage handling, and customer service, ultimately enhancing the overall travel experience.

Manufacturing Industry: In the manufacturing sector, Data Link Switching can be effectively employed to establish a reliable connection between production facilities and their central management systems. This allows administrators to access real-time production data, monitor operations, and perform remote maintenance while the production facility autonomously responds to any issues. As a result, the technology helps reduce downtime and enables efficient management of production lines.

Data Link Switching FAQ

What is Data Link Switching?

Data Link Switching (DLSw) is a protocol used to facilitate communication between disparate networks by tunneling data link layer (Layer 2) information over a packet-switched network (like IP or IPX). It is primarily used to connect IBM SNA networks over an IP-based infrastructure.

How does Data Link Switching work?

DLSw operates by encapsulating data link layer (Layer 2) frames within a DLSw header. This header is then encapsulated within an IP or IPX packet, allowing for the transportation of layer 2 frames across the packet-switched network. DLSw peers are used to establish a connection between devices and forward encapsulated frames between them.

What are the advantages of using Data Link Switching?

Some advantages of using Data Link Switching include the ability to connect geographically distant networks, simplifying network configuration and management, and providing reliable and efficient transport of legacy protocols over modern IP-based networks.

What are the disadvantages of using Data Link Switching?

Disadvantages of using Data Link Switching include potential performance issues due to the additional overhead of encapsulation, limited support from modern network devices, and the necessity for a specialized skill set to troubleshoot and manage the DLSw environment.

What are some alternatives to Data Link Switching?

Some alternatives to Data Link Switching include using native Layer 3 protocols (such as IP or IPX) to replace the need for encapsulating Layer 2 protocols, implementing MPLS-TP (Multi-Protocol Label Switching – Transport Profile) for layer 2 switching over a layer 3 network, or using GRE (Generic Routing Encapsulation) tunneling for transparent transport of layer 2 frames.

Related Technology Terms

  • Frame Relay
  • Virtual Circuits
  • ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode)
  • ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network)
  • LLC (Logical Link Control)

Sources for More Information


About The Authors

The DevX Technology Glossary is reviewed by technology experts and writers from our community. Terms and definitions continue to go under updates to stay relevant and up-to-date. These experts help us maintain the almost 10,000+ technology terms on DevX. Our reviewers have a strong technical background in software development, engineering, and startup businesses. They are experts with real-world experience working in the tech industry and academia.

See our full expert review panel.

These experts include:


About Our Editorial Process

At DevX, we’re dedicated to tech entrepreneurship. Our team closely follows industry shifts, new products, AI breakthroughs, technology trends, and funding announcements. Articles undergo thorough editing to ensure accuracy and clarity, reflecting DevX’s style and supporting entrepreneurs in the tech sphere.

See our full editorial policy.

More Technology Terms

Technology Glossary

Table of Contents