MSAs Are More Important Than You Think
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MSAs Are More Important Than You Think

Posted on by FS.COM

When we talk about fiber optic transceivers,we may think of MSA (Multi-Source Agreement) compliance. Actually, MSA has been around a few years and not new to us. However, most of the times, our understanding of MSA stays only at the surface. We can easily say out what MSAs are and know that they are very important standards for fiber optic transceivers vendors. But do you know why MSAs are so important? And do MSAs benefit the optical industry and end users? Obviously, we are not going to talk about MSA documents themselves but their value for the industry and users.


Brief Introduction to MSA

MSA stands for “Multi-Source Agreement”. MSAs are not official standards organizations but agreements between multiple manufacturers, system integrators, and suppliers in order to make products which are compatible across vendors, acting as de facto standards, establishing a competitive market for interoperable products. Because MSAs specify parameters for system components and their guideline values, such as the electrical and optical interfaces, mechanical dimensions and electro-magnetic values. Equipment manufacturers comply with MSAs when designing their systems to ensure interoperability and interchangeability between interface modules. This gives end users more choice when selecting module vendors, which serves to drive down cost through economies of scale.

MSAs are particularly important in the optical industry as the density, line speed, power consumption and typical costs of an MSA can strongly impact its success in the marketplace. This, in turn, can drive the choice for both connector and media types.

Currently, the approved MSAs cover the transceivers from 1G to 100G, as the following table shown.

Name of MSA Year of latest revision Brief Description Keywords/Applications
GBIC 2000 GigaBit Interface Converter Designed for Gigabit Ethernet, SDH/SONET (2.5 Gb/s) and Fibre Channel (4Gb/s). superseded by SFP
SFP 2001 Small Form-factor Pluggable Designed for Gigabit Ethernet, SDH/SONET (2.5 Gb/s) and Fibre Channel (4Gb/s)
XENPAK 2001 Fiber optic transceiver for 10Gb Ethernet Superseded by X2 and SFP+
X2 2005 Fiber optic transceiver for 10Gb Ethernet Superseded by SFP+
XFP 2005 Fiber optic transceiver for 10GB Ethernet Designed for 10Gb/s. Supports 8Gb/s Fibre Channel, 10 Gb/s Ethernet and Optical Transport Network
SNAP12 2002 12-channel optical pluggable module Multi-fiber parallel optics. Superseded by CFP and CXP
SFP+ 2013 Enhanced small form-factor pluggable Designed for 10Gb/s. Supports 8Gb/s Fibre Channel, 10 Gb/s Ethernet and Optical Transport Network standard OTU2
2013 Quad Small Form factor Pluggable 10G and 28G Supports Ethernet, Fibre Channel, InfiniBand and SONET/SDH standards up to 40GB/s and 100Gb/s
CXP In Progress C Form Factor Pluggable CXP and CXP2. Supports Infiniband and Ethernet to 100G.
CFP 2013 C Form Factor Pluggable (100G) Optical transceiver form factors supporting 40Gb/s and 100Gb/s. CFP, CFP2 and CFP4


Why Are MSAs So Important?

As we talk above, MSAs will define the characteristics of any type of fiber optic transceiver system. To users, MSAs are important because they give consumers piece of mind that transceiver devices will have a basic level of operability. With MSAs, consumers have more freedom in the choices they make, because the basic functionality and operability of all transceiver devices will be the same with these devices. Of course, some products may be superior than other. This will allow people to compete and gain a share of the market without creating a design that’s completely different from all other devices. To the industry, before MSAs launched, a couple of companies get together, work behind closed doors, and now these standards force suppliers to be efficient and creative to find ways to drive costs down and offer customers more for their money. However, some system vendors have attempted to subvert the standardizing value of the MSAs and tried to find loopholes around the value around the MSAs. The most common scheme is to write a unique code into some of the undefined memory in the EEPROM of each fiber optic transceivers. When the transceiver is inserted into the host switch, its EEPROM is read, and, if the code is “incorrect” the module is rejected as “incompatible”. Though the unique code seems like a barrier for the 3rd party transceiver suppliers, many module vendors have determined how to generate and program certain parts with proper codes. Because of this, they are not distinguishable from the brand name parts of the host systems. System vendors will use the tactics to protect consumers from grossly inflated prices. They also introduce standards to support and encourage creation and standards.

What Do MSAs Compliance Mean To You?

MSAs keep developing with the coming of next-generation transmission technology. The trend of MSAs may be more normative and comprehensive. As an end user, MSAs allow you to have more excellent choice when choosing fiber optic transceivers. You do not have to pay more money to purchase the fiber optic transceivers directly from system vendors, but get the same performance. In addition, MSAs promote the competition in markets, so that the demand for specialized products and services has also increased. It is a challenge for many transceiver vendors to drive them upgrade the technologies and quality. MSAs have built a new way of innovation instead of market monopoly for the optical industry, and bring both opportunity and challenge to users and this industy.

Fiberstore provides a full range of fiber optic transceivers from 1G to 100G, including SFP, SFP+, X2, XENPAK, XFP, GBIC, QSFP/QSFP+, CFP and so on. All of our fiber optic transceivers comply with the respective MSAs and are 100% compatible with major brands like Cisco, HP, Juniper, Nortel, Brocade, D-link, Dell etc. Most of the baisc transceivers are with ready stock and more discount are available for bulk order. For more detailed information, please contact us via

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