Rashmi Bhardwaj | Blog,Hardware, Infrastructure & Design,Routing & Switching

Introduction to Switch Stacking & Clustering

Before discussing the difference between switch stacking and clustering, let’s understand the two technologies in brief.

Stacking technology unites multiple switches into a single logical unit, using stack interconnect cables. The stack behaves as a single switching unit that is managed by a master switch elected from one of the member switches.



Cisco Switch Clustering technology is a set of software features available to all Catalyst 3500 XL, 2900 XL, 2955/2950, 2970, 3550, 3560, 3750, 4500, and Catalyst 1900/2820 Standard and Enterprise Edition switches. Switch Clustering technology allows to manage up to 16 switches, concurrently, through a single IP address


Comparison Table: Switch Stacking vs Clustering

Below table enumerates the difference between Stacking and Clustering –




PhilosophyStacking connects two or more (up to 9) switches through a stack cable to so that physically separate switches form one logical switch. The stack of switches will be managed as one and having one management IP address. Stacking connects the backplane of the switches thus having full backplane speed connectivity between the switches.Clustering is a logical collection of switches independent without interconnecting stack cables, having single point of authentication and management with no physical boundary.


Location Limited to single wiring closetExtends beyond wiring closet
Legacy system supportLegacy system not supportLegacy system supported
Stack membersLimited number of stack membersUpto 16 members in a switch cluster
Member categoriesSwitch members in stack can be categorized into –



Switch members in cluster can be categorized into –

·Command switch

·Member switches

·Candidate switches

Design flexibilityNo flexibility in stacking designAdmin chooses the cluster members
ScalabilityEasily ScalableNot easily scalable as compared to stacking
ManagementSingle IP address for managementIt provides single virtual IP address for full cluster management and Web based management.
Price vs performanceLow entry price and high performance.High entry price and less performance.
Administration complexityDifficult to add/delete members and troubleshootEasy to configure and troubleshoot
Supported models3750X , 3850 ,2960X etc.2970, 3550, 3560, 3750, 4500 etc.

Download the comparison table here.

More detail on Switch Clustering is available via below link –



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