Optical Transceiver Multi-Source Agreements: The Foundation of Open Networking

Optical Transceiver Multi-Source Agreements: The Foundation of Open Networking

As we mentioned recently, multi-source agreements (MSAs) are a crucial foundational piece that ensures transceiver compatibility. But where do these MSAs come from? And what do they do for the entire networking supply chain ecosystem? Read on and find out!

Who Is Behind MSAs?

The multi-source agreements for optical transceivers come from ad-hoc committees composed of leading manufacturers of optical components. Such groups include the SFF TA TWG, or Small Form Factor Technology Affiliate Technical Working Group, a subgroup of the SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association), and the CFP MSA group. The groups pool their technological resources to develop an industry-wide standard. Standards are developed in alliance with international standards organizations like IEEE, ITU-T, and more. Generally, the association will put forward a draft for public comment. After further consideration and a final vote among member organizations, a final version is published. As the technology evolves, the MSA will undergo continual revision.

What Is (and Isn’t) in an MSA

Some of the parameters defined by MSAs include:

  • The mechanical interface of the transceiver, including the physical dimensions of the transceiver, the cage assembly dimensions for the switch ports, labeling conventions, host board mechanical layout, and more.
  • The electrical interface of the transceiver, including the pin definitions of the connector, timing, status I/O, module interface definition, description of data fields in the EEPROM, and more.
  • Digital diagnostics settings, including alarm thresholds for temperature, Tx/Rx power, and transmitter bias current.

However, when specific parameters are mentioned in MSAs, they are mentioned as a range of values or as extremes (maximum or minimum). This allows for performance variance among standards-based optics, between “carrier-grade” and “enterprise-grade.”

Benefits of MSAs

Multi-source agreements have benefits throughout the supplier ecosystem. Component manufacturers can achieve economies of scale, which reduces costs for OEMs and, ultimately, the end customers. Furthermore, open standards expand customer choice; multi-source agreements ensure that all transceivers will be physically compatible, and thereby make the cost savings from open standards-based third-party transceivers possible.

Ready to learn more about how you could benefit from open standards-based transceivers? Contact us today.

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