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SFP Module: What's It and and How to Choose It?

Updated on Sep 29, 2021 by
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SFP module is still being utilized as an industry standard by worldwide manufacturers and providers today. It has been an industry workhorse for over 20 years in many networks such as SONET, Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel, PON, and other communications standards. This guide is going to explain some tips about the SFP module for beginners.

What Exactly Is an SFP Module?

SFP stands for small form-factor pluggable, also known as mini-gbic (gigabit interface converter). An Ethernet SFP module is simply a small modular transceiver that plugs into an SFP port on a network switch or server. SFP transceiver has replaced the GBIC module in most applications because of its small size, allowing it to be used in tight networking spaces to provide fast communication between switches and important networking components. The Gigabit SFP module is hot-pluggable, which makes it easy to adjust existing networks without having to redesign the entire cable infrastructure. See more details about Ethernet SFP module types in the following video.


How to Choose an Ethernet SFP Module?

Choose SFP Copper or Fiber Module?

SFP module comes in various types on the basis of different classification standards. It works with copper Ethernet cables or fiber optical cables.

On the fiber optics side, there are single mode SFP module and multimode SFP module, which allows users to select the appropriate transceiver according to the required optical range for the network. Operation wavelength ranges from 850nm to 1550nm. Commonly, 850nm SFP can reach up to 550 meters with multimode fiber optics, and the 1550nm SFP supports up to a maximum of 160km via single mode fiber cables. On the other hand, copper SFP modules primarily are 1000BASE-T SFP and 1000BASE-TX SFP modules, which are excellent used in gigabit Ethernet networking within 100 meters.

More about Types of SFP transceivers

Choose SFP or Advanced SFP+?

SFP and SFP+ are applied at different transmission speeds. SFP module supports 1Gb data rate, and the SFP type includes 1000base-T/TX, 1000base-SX, 1000base-LX/LX10, 1000base-BX10, 1000base-LX/LH, 1000base-EX, 1000base-ZX and so on.

SFP+ is used in 10-gigabit Ethernet applications but shares the same form factor with SFP. In the SFP+ family, there are primarily SFP+ SR, SFP+ LR, and SFP+ ZR modules for 10 Gigabit ethernet networking.

More about SFP vs Advanced SFP+/SFP28/QSFP/QSFP28

Choose an MSA Compatible SFP or Not?

Compatibility is often the most important parameter users care about when buying an MSA SFP module. MSA (multi-source agreement) is an agreement supported by a number of manufacturers who came together to collaborate and standardize the fit-form and try to provide a reliable mean of mixing and matching SFP brands successfully. Third-party companies also have developed their own tools to program SFP modules to be compatible with the OEM. So, the MSA compatibility Gigabit SFP module can be used successfully in most networks.

More about OEM vs Third-Party MSA Transceivers

FAQs about SFP Transceiver

Can We Use SFP Hardware in SFP+ Slots?

In many cases, the SFP+ port accepts SFP optics, but the speed will be down to 1G instead of 10G. However, SFP+ optics can not be plugged into the SFP port, because SFP+ does not support speed under 1G. In addition, almost all SFP+ ports on Cisco switches can support SFPs, but many SFP+ ports of Brocade switch only support SFP+ optics.

Can I use a 1000base-LX sfp for 1000base-SX fiber?

Generally, they are not interchangeable. 1000Base SX and LX are two optics standards with different operation wavelengths.1000Base LX SFP transceiver usually operates at 1310nm and uses single-mode fiber to connect, while 1000Base-SX usually is 850nm SFP and works with multimode fiber.

Can you aggregate multiple SFP ports?

Of course, you can. Link aggregation provides benefits like increased bandwidth, redundancy, and load-balancing. That will ensure that one link can immediately switch to a second available link when it fails. Therefore, aggregation on SFP ports is critical for enterprise networks where performance and security are more important. But note that, before connecting the SFP ports, please make sure that the switches have been configured for link aggregation. Otherwise, it will cause network loops.

Additional Learning Hub Resources

How to Check SFP Module Optical Signal Strength?

SFP Transceiver: To Be or Not To Be?

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