Introduction to Small Form-factor Pluggable (SFP) Transceiver Modules
What Is SFP?
SFP, short for small form-factor pluggable is a compact, hot-pluggable transceiver used for both telecommunication and data communications applications. SFP transceiver can be regarded as the upgrade version of GBIC module. Unlike GBIC with SC fiber optic interface, SFP is with LC interface and the main body size of SFP is only about half of GBIC so that it can save more space. SFP interfaces a network device mother board (for a router, switch, media converter or similar devices) to a fiber optic or copper networking cable. Meanwhile, SFP is a popular industry format supported by many network component vendors. It is designed to support SONET, Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel, and other communications standards.
The SFP transceiver is not standardized by any official standards body, but rather is specified by a Multi-source Agreement (MSA) among competing manufacturers. The SFP was designed after the GBIC interface, and allows greater port density (number of transceivers per cm along the edge of a mother board) than the GBIC, which is why SFP is also known as mini-GBIC. The related Small Form Factor transceiver is similar in size to the SFP, but is soldered to the host board as a through-hole device, rather than plugged into an edge-card socket.
However, as a practical matter, some networking equipment manufacturers engage in vendor lock-in practices whereby they deliberately break compatibility with "generic" SFPs by adding a check in the device's firmware that will enable only the vendor's own modules. For example, in 2003 during a routine Internet Operating System (IOS) update on their Catalyst line of switches, Cisco added a feature that would cause the switch to reject optical modules that were not deemed "Cisco brand".
Types of SFP Transceiver Modules
SFP Transceivers are available with a variety of transmitter and receiver types, allowing users to select the appropriate transceiver for each link to provide the required optical reach over the available optical fiber type (e.g. multi-mode fiber or single-mode fiber).
In the market, SFP transceiver modules are commonly available in several different categories:
For multi-mode fiber, with black or beige extraction lever
SX - 850 nm, for a maximum of 550 m at 1.25 Gbit/s (Gigabit Ethernet) or 150m at 4.25 Gbit/s (Fibre Channel)
For single-mode fiber, with blue extraction lever
LX - 1310 nm, for distances up to 10 km
EX - 1310 nm,for distances up to 40 km
ZX - 1550 nm, for distances up to 80 km
BX - 1490 nm 1310nm, for distances up to 10 km
1550 nm 40 km (XD), 80 km (ZX), 120 km (EX or EZX)
For copper twisted pair cabling
1000BASE-T - these modules incorporate significant interface circuitry and can only be used for Gigabit Ethernet, as that is the interface they implement. They are not compatible with (or rather: do not have equivalents for) Fibre channel or SONET.
For WDM (Wavelength Division Multiplex) system
BiDi SFP (Bidirectional SFP) for bi-directional traffic on a single fiber. Coupled with CWDM (Coarse Wavelength Division Multiplexing), these double the traffic density of fiber links
CWDM and DWDM (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing) transceivers at various wavelengths achieving various maximum distances
Applications of SFP Transceiver Module
SFP is expected to perform at data speed of up to five gigabits per second (5Gbps), and possibly higher. Because SFP module can be easily interchanged, so electro-optical or fiber optic networks can be upgraded and maintained more conveniently than that with traditional soldered-in modules. Owing to its low cost, low profile and the ability to provide a connection to different types of optical fibers, SFP transceiver can result in a substantial cost savings, both in maintenance and in upgrading efforts. SFP transceiver is available with multi-mode single-mode fiber optics, allowing users to select the appropriate transceiver for each link in order to provide the required optical reach over the available optical fiber type. It is also available with copper cable interfaces, which allows a host device designed primarily for optical fiber communications to communicate over unshielded twisted pair networking cables. Modern optical SFP transceiver supports DDM (Digital Diagnostics Monitoring) functions, also known as DOM (Digital Optical Monitoring). This feature gives users the ability to monitor the real-time parameters of SFP transceiver, such as optical output power, optical input power, temperature, laser-bias current and transceiver supply voltage.
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