Bridge Router or brouter is a network device that works as a bridge and as a router. The brouter routes packets for known protocols and simply forwards all other packets as a bridge would.

Brouters operate at both the network layer for routable protocols and at the data link layer for non-routable protocols. As networks continue to become more complex, a mix of routable and non-routable protocols has led to the need for the combined features of bridges and routers. Brouters handle both routable and non-routable features by acting as routers for routable protocols and bridges for non-routable protocols. Bridged protocols might propagate throughout the network, but techniques such as filtering and learning might be used to reduce potential congestion.

Bridges are data communications devices that operate principally at Layer 2 of the OSI reference model. As such, widely referred to as data link layer device.

Bridges became commercially available in the early 1980s. At the time of their introduction, bridges connected and enabled packet forwarding between homogeneous networks. More recently, bridging between different networks has also been defined and standardized.

Several kinds of bridging have proven important as internetworking devices. Transparent bridging is found primarily in Ethernet environments, while source-route bridging occurs primarily in Token Ring environments. Translational bridging provides translation between the formats and transit principles of different media types (usually Ethernet and Token Ring). Finally, source-route transparent bridging combines the algorithms of transparent bridging and source-route bridging enable communication in mixed Ethernet/Token Ring environments.

Bridging occur at the link layer, which controls data flow, handles transmission errors, provides physical (as opposed to logical) addressing, and manages access to the physical medium. Bridges provide these functions by using various link layer protocols that dictate specific flow control, error handling, addressing, and media-access algorithms. Examples of popular link layer protocols include Ethernet, Token Ring, and FDDI.

Bridges are not complicated devices. They analyze incoming frames, make forwarding decisions based on information contained in the frames, and forward the frames toward the destination. In some cases, such as source-route bridging, the entire path to the destination is contained in each frame. In other cases, such as transparent bridging, frames are forwarded one hop at a time toward the destination.

Bridges are capable of filtering frames based on any Layer 2 fields. For example, a bridge can be programmed to reject (not forward) all frames sourced from a particular network. Because link layer information often includes a reference to an upper-layer protocol, bridges usually can filter on this parameter. Furthermore, filters can be helpful in dealing with unnecessary broadcast and multicast packets.