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SFP+ Transceiver: A High-Speed Networking Technology

SFP+ Transceiver: A High-Speed Networking Technology

Posted On September 5, 2015

The challenge faced by many IT managers today while selecting a new cable solution for datacentres, is to handle the compatibility of previous and current deployments while taking into consideration the trends and future requirements on the datacentre. Most certainly one of these requirements is to increase the capacity to send/ upload and receive/ download information at transmission rates well above what we have at the moment. To cope up with such requirements, devices compatible with higher speeds are now widely being deployed all over the system in many communication rooms, server farms and even mega datacentres. These devices include the next generation transceiver module, Small Form-factor Pluggable (SFP+) which is the topic of this article.
SFP+ transceiver is an enhanced version of SFP and readers are encouraged to read the companion article entitled “Network Interfacing with SFP Transceivers”. Like SFP, SFP+ is also a convertor from electrical to optical signals and vice versa, and therefore serves as an interface between networking devices like switches, routers etc. and its interconnecting fibre cable. Though both are similar sized modules, but the SFP+ transceivers overcome the low transfer rates associated with their SFP counterparts. They can support speeds up to 10Gbps for Gigabit Ethernet applications and 8.5Gbps for fibre channel systems.
The innovative SFP+ module plugs into a special switch port to convert the port to copper or fibre interface, and fortunately with the module being hot-swappable, the switch doesn’t need to be shut down to swap out a module. This makes it easy to upgrade and maintain a network. As compared to a slightly older XFP transceiver technology, the SFP+ is smaller in size, providing greater port density on the switch as it moves the chip for clock and data recovery into a line card on the host device. This enables SFP+ to have lower power consumption, typically less than 1W, and is thus highly cost effective when operating day and night. These are sufficient facts to motivate the migration from old transceivers to SFP+ modules.
For the 10Gbps networks, SFP+ has acquired many industrial standards based on whether it can work single mode or multimode, as well as the working distance. Usually, the vendors like Apollo Technology provide the specifics of each SFP+ module. For instance, the module 10Gbase-SR has a short working range of 30 to 300 meters, while the module 10Gbase-LR has a long working range in kilometer; around 10 km. The recent advancement in the market of SFP+ transceivers is the availability of the new tunable DWDM SFP+ pluggable transceivers whose wavelength2 can be tuned to any standard ITU channel during operation. Another advancement is the SFP+ Next Day Dense Wave (NDDW) DWDM optical transceiver that aims to reduce the lead time for DWDM components which is typically in the range of 8-12 weeks. For sure, these tunable modules will allow network operators and managers to significantly reduce their costs while improving operational efficiency in a way that would never have been possible with fixed wavelength transceivers.
SFP+ transceivers have revolutionized the 10Gbps Ethernet proving to a game changer for this technology. Being standardized by Multi Source Agreements (MSAs) between manufacturers, the physical dimensions, connectors and signaling of these SFP+ transceivers remains consistent and interchangeable. Each provider may have add-on features for example, SFP+ devices by Apollo Technology are RoHS-compliant lead free and offered with laser safety. With superior performance and reliable SFP+ modules from qualified vendors, more and more fibre optic users are switching to SFP+ transceivers to lower their power budget and increase the performance of their network.