Process switching requires the CPU to be personally involved with every forwarding decision.

Fast switching still uses the CPU, but after a packet has been forwarded, information about how to reach the destination is stored in a fast-switching cache. This way, when another packet going to the same destination is seen, the next hop information can be re-used from the cache, so the processor doesn’t have to look up and assemble all the information again. If the information is not cached, (for example a first packet for a given destination network) the CPU will have a similar workload, for that packet, as if fast switching was not in use.

Cisco Express Forwarding (CEF), is the evolution of optimizing the router to make it be able to forward more packets faster. CEF cheats a little, by building a Forwarding Information Base (FIB), and an adjacency table. The FIB is accessed very quickly based on how they built it (it is Cisco proprietary), and contains pre-computed reverse lookups, next hop information for routes including the interface and L2 information to use. (All the stuff a router would have to consider when forwarding a packet).

In short:

Process switching is like doing math, long hand.

Fast switching, using the cache, is like doing a problem once long hand, and subsequent problems you remember the answer for, (from memory, or the cache).

CEF is like having programmed an excel spreadsheet, and when the numbers hit the cells, the answer is already calculated.

Best wishes,


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