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20 Oct 2015

In order to cut down the costs on the expensive SFP transceiver modules, many companies are seeking for Cisco SFP alternatives to use. When choosing SFP transceivers, many people often run into several frequently asked questions involving the Cisco Catalyst line of switches, and whether we can use a Cisco compatible SFP (a 3rd party SFP) with them. Here are some common questions we might have when using a 3rd party SFP transceiver. And from the answers, we might have a deeper understanding of using these 3rd party SFP transceivers.

Cisco SFP-10G-SR

What Does "Third-Party" Mean?

In commerce, a "third-party" means a supplier (or service provider) who is not directly controlled by either the seller (first party) or the customer/buyer (second party) in a business transaction. For example, in the fiber optics industry, all fiber optic transceivers are defined by Multi-Source Agreement (MSA). MSAs strictly define the operating characteristics of fiber optic networking equipment, so that system vendors may implement ports in their devices that allow MSA compliant networking components produced by different manufacturers are interoperable. As long as a manufacturer complies to MSA guidelines, their transceiver modules will function and operate identically to any other manufacturer's MSA-compliant transceivers. For instance, Fiberstore's 100% MSA compliant GLC-LH-SMD transceiver will function identically to a Cisco GLC-LH-SMD transceiver and will be 100% compatible with Cisco networking equipment.

Can We Use Third-Party SFPs With Cisco Catalyst Switches?

In most cases, if you plugged a non-Cisco SFP transceiver into a Cisco Catalyst switch, you would get an error message like the following:
%PHY-4-UNSUPPORTED_TRANSCEIVER: Unsupported transceiver found in Gi1/0/0 
%GBIC_SECURITY_CRYPT-4-VN_DATA_CRC_ERROR: GBIC in port 65538 has bad crc

Why does that happen? Well, you need to know that every SFP is a small chip containing a range of information about the device, including its vendor name, vendor ID, serial number and CRC. When it is plugged into a Catalyst's SFP port the first time, the Catalyst queries this chip for its credentials. If it's not Cisco, your Cisco Catalyst switches would be configured by default not to work with the 3rd party (non-Cisco) SFPs, so the Catalyst would automatically shut the port down entirely. It's somewhat underhanded, but since SFPs aren't overseen by a central standards body -unlike WiFi, for example- there's no one around to tell Cisco not to do it. This can ultimately lead to needlessly expensive upgrades when third-party SFPs truly can work just as well in all Cisco Catalyst switches. In fact, this is not a problem, because some hidden commands or 100% compatibility technology developed by some vendors can solve this problem and enable third-party SFPs work well with Cisco Catalyst switches.

Are Third-Party Cisco-Compatible Transceivers Safe?

In our experience, there is absolutely no possibility that a third-party transceiver will cause problems. If the SFP is well-made and from a reliable vendor, there's simply no reason it should cause any issues. Most third-party transceivers are made and assembled in exactly the same plants assembling officially-branded transceivers and the chances of even a poorly-made one causing actual damage are extremely minimal. There are only a very small number of devices in this world with the specialty equipment needed to produce fiber optic hardware. Actually, there is no difference between an official Cisco transceiver and a third-party plug, aside from the brand name and the price difference. Generally speaking, the cost of an officially-branded SFP transceiver is more expensive than a 3rd party one. Take 1000BASE-SX SFP (GLC-SX-MMD) for example, the GLC-SX-MMD price of Cisco is about $ 500.00, but you can easily find a 3rd party one that can take a discount at up to 90% off.

The above-mentioned are the most frequently asked questions in the usage of a third-party SFP. Where to buy the most reliable third-party SFP transceivers at lowest prices? Fiberstore, as the main professional fiber optic products manufacturer in China, provides third-party SFP transceivers which are fully compatible with major brands (Cisco, HP, NETGEAR, Finisar, Juniper, etc).


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