Switching fabric is the combination of hardware and software that moves data coming in to a network node out by the correct port (door) to the next node in the network.
Switching fabric includes the switching units (individual boxes) in a node, the integrated circuits that they contain, and the programming that allows switching paths to be controlled. The switching fabric is independent of the bus technology and infrastructure used to move data between nodes and also separate from the router. The term is sometimes used to mean collectively all switching hardware and software in a network.
The term uses a fabric metaphor to suggest the possible complexity and web-like structure of switching paths and ports within a node. The switching fabric typically includes data buffers and the use of shared memory.
The Signal Computing System Architecture (SCSA), which provides a model framework for computer telephony, uses the term. In the SCSA framework, part of the hardware model includes a Switch Fabric Controller, a component that monitors and manages the switching paths.
Asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) and frame relay are sometimes described as switching fabric technologies.