A communication system which includes more efficient packet conversion and routing for improved performance and simplified operation. The communication system includes one or more inputs for receiving packet data and one or more outputs for providing packet data. In one embodiment, the present invention comprises a "traffic circle" architecture for routing packet data and converting between different packet formats. In this embodiment, the system includes a data bus configured in a ring or circle. A plurality of port adapters or protocol processors are coupled to the ring data bus or communication circle. Each of the port adapters are configurable for converting between different types of communication packet formats. In the preferred embodiment, each of the port adapters are operable to convert between one or more communication packet formats to/from a generic packet format. The common generic packet format is then provided on the circular bus for circulation on the communication traffic circle between respective ones of the port adapters. In a second embodiment, the present invention comprises a cross-bar switch communication channel. This system is designed to receive a plurality of communications channels comprising packet data. The communication system comprises a plurality of protocol converters or protocol processors for converting possibly differing communication protocols or differing packet formats to/from a common generic packet format. Each of the protocol converters are coupled to a single-sided cross-bar switch to transmit/receive data to/from other protocol converters. The single-sided cross-bar switch is operable for interconnecting the multiple communications paths between arbitrary pairs of communications ports. The system preferably includes arbitration and control logic for establishing and removing connection paths within the cross-bar switch. In the preferred embodiment, the single-sided cross-bar switch is configurable for different transmission paths for added flexibility.