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

May 7, 2013

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.

So What Exactly Is an SFP Module?

SFP stands for small form-factor pluggable, also know as mini-gbic (gigabit interface converter).

An SFP module is simply a small modular transceiver that plugs into an SFP port on a network switch or server. SFP module 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. And, SFP module is hot-pluggable, which makes it easy to adjust existing networks without having to redesign the entire cable infrastructure.


Choose SFP Copper or Fiber Module?

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

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. The most common optical transceivers are the 850nm wavelength for a maximum of 550 meters with multimode fiber optics and the 1310nm wavelength for a maximum of 20km with single mode fiber optics. Copper-based SFP modules primarily are 1000BASE-T and 1000BASE-TX SFP modules used in gigabit Ethernet networking within 100 meters.

More about "Types of SFP transceivers"

Choose SFP or Advanced SFP+?

According to the transmission speed, the most common SFP module on the market today is the 1Gb, including 1000base-T/TX, 1000base-SX, 1000base-LX/LX10, 1000base-BX10, 1000base-LX/LH, 1000base-EX, and 1000base-ZX.

With the expansion of networks and ever-increasing demand for bandwidth, the 10Gb SFP+ module is becoming more and more popular. 10Gb SFP, also know as SFP+, a newer version with faster speeds of the same form factor. In the SFP+ family, you will primarily find SFP+ SR, SFP+ LR, SFP+ ZR modules for 10 Gigabit ethernet networking.

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 cannot 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.

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

Choose an MSA Compatible SFP or Not?

Compatibility is often the most 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 SFP module can be used successfully in most networks.

More about OEM vs Third-Party MSA Transceivers

Additional Learning Hub Resources

How to Check SFP Module Optical Signal Strength?

SFP Transceiver: To Be or Not To Be?

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