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SFP Compatibility Guide

November 13, 2018

As fiber optic technology continues to develop and is deployed within telecommunication networks, optical transceiver modules including manufacturer compatible SFP’s have been adopted within data center’s around the world. This article is designed to help to understand the compatibility and interoperability of brand compatible SFP’s before you purchase them.

What does manufacturer-compatible mean?

When transceivers such as SFP’s are referred to as ‘manufacturer-compatible’ it means that they aren’t produced by the original manufacturer of the devices that they operate with, however they are compatible with them.

To understand SFP compatibility, it is useful to understand the MSA (Multi-source Agreement) which standardises all transceiver products.

The SFP Multi-source Agreement

MSA is an industry-wide agreement that ensures that all transceiver manufacturers make standardised products that meet specific regulations. MSA defines SFP specifications such as size, connectors and signalling type to ensure the devices are compatible with branded SFP devices.

Why is compatibility so important?

The main industry manufacturers such as Cisco, HP, Avaya, Juniper and such-like, usually make a point to only advertise devices that are from their own brand portfolio. For obvious reasons this drives sales of their own devices and ensures customer retention. However, they are also more often priced higher than manufacturer-compatible devices that are almost identical.

A manufacturer-compatible device is a standard device which meets the same MSA standard as the branded products. It has identical functionality with that of the official hardware and can be used across devices from multiple vendors.

Three compatibility issues and quick fixes

If you have faced any issues with a manufacturer-compatible SFP device, it is usually due to one of the following, easy-to-fix issues.

  • Wrong transceiver module in device port:

Some transceiver modules are very similar in appearance. If you are having trouble with your device, then ensure that it you haven’t mixed it up with a similar product such as and SFP+. Different products may fit seamlessly in to the same ports, and may even still work to a degree, but for example, without the correct device they may suffer from reduced transmission rates.

  • Ensure SFP wavelengths match at each end

In transceiver transmission, the SFP converts electrical signals from one end, into optical signals, transmits through fiber and converts them back into electrical signals at the other end. To ensure this works correctly the SFP’s at each end must have the same wavelength. If you are having trouble with transmission, check that the SFP’s used in both locations match.

  • Choosing the correct fiber type

Similarly to ensuring matching wavelengths, SFP’s must also use the same fiber types at each end of the modules. To help match fiber types, check the colouring of the outer jacket on the cable which can be helpful when identifying them.

Ensuring compatibility of your SFP devices is an essential part of purchasing the correct product for your network. Also use a trustworthy company when purchasing such equipment and request test certificates wherever possible.

Carritech offer both new and used manufacturer products, as well as lower-cost manufacturer-compatible alternatives that have been full tested and are covered with comprehensive warranty periods.

Click here to view more information on all of our optical transceiver products, or alternatively contact us via email at contact@carritech.com or call +44 0203 006 1170.

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