Small form-factor pluggable transceiver

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Small Form-factor Pluggable connected to a pair of fiber optic cables.

The small form-factor pluggable (SFP) is a compact, hot-pluggable optical module transceiver used for both telecommunication and data communications applications. The form factor and electrical interface are specified by a multi-source agreement (MSA) under the auspices of the Small Form Factor Committee.[1] It is a popular industry format jointly developed and supported by many network component vendors.

An SFP interface on networking hardware is a modular (plug-and-play) slot for a variable, media-specific transceiver in order to connect a fiber optic cable or sometimes a copper cable.[2] SFP transceivers exist supporting SONET, Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel, and other communications standards. Due to its smaller size, the SFP has replaced the gigabit interface converter (GBIC) in most applications, and is sometimes referred to as a Mini-GBIC by some vendors,[3] but this name is not officially defined in the MSAs.


SFP transceivers are available with a variety of transmitter and receiver specifications, 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). Transceivers are also designated by their transmission speed. SFP modules are commonly available in several different categories.

1 Gbit/s SFP[edit]

  • 1 Gbit/s multi-mode fiber, LC connector, with black or beige extraction lever[1]
    • SX – 850 nm, for a maximum of 550 m at 1.25 Gbit/s (gigabit Ethernet). Other multi-mode SFP applications support even higher rates at shorter distances.[4]
  • 1.25 Gbit/s multi-mode fiber, LC connector, extraction lever colors not standardised
    • SX+/MX/LSX (name dependent on manufacturer) – 1310 nm, for a distance up to 2 km.[5] Not compatible with SX or 100BASE-FX. Based on LX but engineered to work with a multi-mode fiber using a standard multi-mode patch cable rather than a mode-conditioning cable commonly used to adapt LX to multi-mode.
  • 1 to 2.5 Gbit/s single-mode fiber, LC connector, with blue extraction lever[1]
    • LX – 1310 nm, for distances up to 10 km (originally, LX just covered 5 km and LX10 for 10 km followed later)
    • EX – 1310 nm, for distances up to 40 km [6]
    • ZX – 1550 nm, for distances up to 80 km (depending on fiber path loss), with green extraction lever (see GLC-ZX-SM1)[6]
    • EZX – 1550 nm, for distances up to 160 km (depending on fiber path loss)[6]
    • BX (officially BX10) – 1490 nm/1310 nm, Single Fiber Bi-Directional Gigabit SFP Transceivers, paired as BX-U and BX-D for Uplink and Downlink respectively, also for distances up to 10 km.[7][8] Variations of bidirectional SFPs are also manufactured which use 1550 nm in one direction, and higher transmit power versions with link length capabilities up to 80 km.
    • 1550 nm 40 km (XD), 80 km (ZX), 120 km (EX or EZX)
    • SFSW – Single Fiber Single Wavelength transceivers, for bi-directional traffic on a single fiber. Coupled with CWDM, these double the traffic density of fiber links.[9][10]
    • CWDM and DWDM transceivers at various wavelengths achieving various maximum distances
  • 1 Gbit/s for copper twisted pair cabling, 8P8C (RJ-45) connector
    • 1000BASE-T – these modules incorporate significant interface circuitry for Physical Coding Sublayer recoding[11] and can only be used for gigabit Ethernet because of the specific line code. They are not compatible with (or rather: do not have equivalents for) Fiber channel or SONET. Unlike non-SFP, copper 1000BASE-T ports integrated into most routers and switches, 1000BASE-T SFPs usually cannot operate at 100BASE-TX speeds.
  • 100 Mbit/s copper and optical – some vendors have shipped 100 Mbit/s limited SFPs for fiber to the home applications and drop-in replacement of legacy 100BASE-FX circuits. These are relatively uncommon and can be easily confused with 1 Gbit/s SFPs.[12]

10 Gbit/s SFP+[edit]

The enhanced small form-factor pluggable (SFP+) is an enhanced version of the SFP that supports data rates up to 16 Gbit/s. The SFP+ specification was first published on May 9, 2006, and version 4.1 published on July 6, 2009.[13] SFP+ supports 8 Gbit/s Fibre Channel, 10 Gigabit Ethernet and Optical Transport Network standard OTU2. It is a popular industry format supported by many network component vendors. Although the SFP+ standard does not include mention of 16 Gbit/s Fibre Channel, it can be used at this speed.[14][a]

SFP+ also introduces direct attach for connecting two SFP+ ports without dedicated transceivers. Direct attach cables (DAC) exist in passive (up to 7 m), active (up to 15 m), and active optical (AOC, up to 100 m) variants.

10 Gbit/s SFP+ modules are exactly the same dimensions as regular SFPs, allowing the equipment manufacturer to re-use existing physical designs for 24 and 48-port switches and modular line cards. In comparison to earlier XENPAK or XFP modules, SFP+ modules leave more circuitry to be implemented on the host board instead of inside the module.[15] Through the use of an active electronic adapter, SFP+ modules may be used in older equipment with XENPAK ports.[16]

SFP+ modules can be described as limiting or linear types; this describes the functionality of the inbuilt electronics. Limiting SFP+ modules include a signal amplifier to re-shape the (degraded) received signal whereas linear ones do not. Linear modules are mainly used with the low bandwidth standards such as 10GBASE-LRM; otherwise, limiting modules are preferred.[17]

25 Gbit/s SFP28[edit]

SFP28 is a 25 Gbit/s interface which evolved from the 100 Gigabit Ethernet interface which is typically implemented with 4 by 25 Gbit/s data lanes. Identical in mechanical dimensions to SFP and SFP+, SFP28 implements one 28 Gbit/s lane[18] accommodating 25 Gbit/s of data with encoding overhead.[19]

SFP28 modules exist supporting single-[20] or multi-mode[21] fiber connections, active optical cable[22] and direct attach copper.[23][24]


The compact small form-factor pluggable (CSFP) is a version of SFP with the same mechanical form factor allowing two independent bidirectional channels per port. It is used primarily to increase port density and decrease fiber usage per port.[25]


The Small Form Factor Pluggable Double Density (SFP-DD) Multi Source Agreement is a new standard for doubling port density. According to the SFD-DD MSA website: "Network equipment based on the SFP-DD will support legacy SFP modules and cables, and new double density products" [26].


Vendor specific modules[edit]

Many manufacturers restrict their devices to accept only original SFP modules of the same brand, as identified by their vendor ID. Due to sometimes significant price differences between original and generic modules, there is a large market of "compatible" or "third party" modules that are programmed to show the appropriate vendor ID.


It is possible to design an SFP+ slot that can accept a standard SFP module. Some routing and Ethernet switch equipment allows for the use of a 10 Gbit/s transceiver at lower Gigabit Ethernet speed, such as with a 1 Gbit/s 1310 nm LX SFP.[27][28]


Ethernet switch with two empty SFP slots (lower left)

SFP sockets are found in Ethernet switches, routers, firewalls and network interface cards. Storage interface cards, also called HBAs or Fibre Channel storage switches, also make use of these modules, supporting different speeds such as 2Gb, 4Gb, and 8Gb. Because of their low cost, low profile, and ability to provide a connection to different types of optical fiber, SFP provides such equipment with enhanced flexibility.


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.[citation needed]

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.[29] Third-party SFP manufacturers have introduced SFPs with "blank" programmable EEPROMs which may be reprogrammed to match any vendor ID.[30]


Front view of SFP module with integrated LC connector. The blue extraction lever indicates the module is designed for use with single-mode optical fiber.
OC-3 SFP internal. The top, metal canister is the transmitting laser diode, the bottom, plastic canister is the receiving photo diode.

The front of the SFP features a duplex LC connector; one connection for transmit and the other for receive.

The SFP transceiver contains a PCB that mates on the rear with the SFP electrical connector in the host system.

SFP electrical pin-out[1]
Pin Name Function
1 VeeT Transmitter ground
2 TxFault Transmitter fault indication
3 TxDisable Optical output disabled when high
4 MOD-DEF(2) Data for serial ID interface
5 MOD-DEF(1) Clock for serial ID interface
6 MOD-DEF(0) Grounded by the module to indicate module presence
7 RateSelect Low selects reduced bandwidth
8 LOS When high, indicates received optical power below worst-case receiver sensitivity
9 VeeR Receiver ground
10 VeeR Receiver ground
11 VeeR Receiver ground
12 RD- Inverted received data
13 RD+ Received data
14 VeeR Receiver ground
15 VccR Receiver power (3.3 V, max. 300 mA)
16 VccT Transmitter power (3.3 V, max. 300 mA)
17 VeeT Transmitter ground
18 TD+ Transmit data
19 TD- Inverted transmit data
20 VeeT Transmitter ground

Mechanical dimensions[edit]

Side view of SFP module (length is 6 cm).

The physical dimensions of the SFP transceiver are slightly smaller than the later XFP transceiver.

SFP[1] XFP[31]
Height 8.5 mm (0.33 inches) 8.5 mm (0.33 inches)
Width 13.4 mm (0.53 inches) 18.35 mm (0.72 inches)
Depth 56.5 mm (2.22 inches) 78.0 mm (3.10 inches)

Although it is not mentioned in any official specification document the maximum data rate of the original SFP standard is 5 Gbit/s.[32]

EEPROM information[edit]

The SFP MSA defines a 256-byte memory map into an EEPROM describing the transceiver's capabilities, standard interfaces, manufacturer, and other information, which is accessible over an I²C interface at the 8-bit address 1010000X (A0h).

Digital diagnostics monitoring[edit]

Modern optical SFP transceivers support standard digital diagnostics monitoring (DDM) functions.[33] This feature is also known as digital optical monitoring (DOM). Modules with this capability enable the end user to monitor parameters of the SFP, such as optical output power, optical input power, temperature, laser bias current, and transceiver supply voltage, in real time. This functionality is commonly implemented for monitoring on routers, switches and optical transport equipment via SNMP.

A DDM interface allows end users to display diagnostics data and alarms for fiber optical transceivers and can be used to diagnose why a transceiver optics is not working, increasing popularity of transceiver optics with DDM. Generally, the transceiver vendor sets the thresholds that trigger a high alarm, low alarm, high warning, or low warning before shipment. In order to be able to take advantage of DDM/DOM capability, most of the modern pluggable transceiver optics support DDM/DOM interfaces.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Besides the data rate, the major difference between 8 and 16 Gbit/s Fibre Channel is the encoding method. 64b/66b encoding used for 16 Gbit/s is a more efficient encoding mechanism than 8b/10b used for 8 Gbit/s, and allows for the data rate to double without doubling the line rate. The result is a 14.025 Gbit/s line rate for 16 Gbit/s Fibre Channel.


  1. ^ a b c d e SFF Committee (2001-05-01), INF-8074i Specification for SFP (Small Formfactor Pluggable) Transceiver (PDF), retrieved 2017-03-16
  2. ^ "SFP Definition from PC Magazine Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2018-05-10.
  3. ^ "Cisco MGBSX1 Gigabit SX Mini-GBIC SFP Transceiver". Retrieved 2018-03-25.
  4. ^ Agilestar/Finisar FTLF8524P2BNV specification (PDF)
  5. ^ "PROLINE 1000BASE-SX EXT MMF SFP F/CISCO 1310NM 2KM - SFP-MX-CDW - Ethernet Transceivers". Retrieved 2017-01-02.
  6. ^ a b c 1000BASE Gigabit Ethernet SFP Transceiver, Optcore, retrieved March 26, 2013
  7. ^ Single Fiber Bidirectional SFP Transceiver (PDF), MRV, archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-04-19
  8. ^ Gigabit Bidirectional SFPs, Yamasaki Optical Technology, archived from the original on February 3, 2010, retrieved June 16, 2010
  9. ^ "Single-fiber single-wavelength gigabit transceivers". Lightwave. Retrieved September 5, 2002.
  10. ^ "The principle of Single Wavelength BiDi Transceiver". Gigalight. Archived from the original on April 3, 2014.
  11. ^ VSC8211 media converter/physical layer specification
  12. ^ "Fiberstore: 100 M SFPs".
  13. ^ "SFF-8431 Specifications for Enhanced Small Form Factor Pluggable Module SFP+ Revision 4.1" (PDF). July 6, 2009. Retrieved 2017-03-16.
  14. ^ Tektronix (November 2013). "Characterizing an SFP+ Transceiver at the 16G Fibre Channel Rate".
  15. ^ "10-Gigabit Ethernet camp eyes SFP+". LightWave. April 2006.
  16. ^ "SFP+ to XENPAK adapter".
  17. ^ Ryan Latchman and Bharat Tailor (January 22, 2008). "The road to SFP+: Examining module and system architectures". Lightwave. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  18. ^ "Ethernet Summit SFP28 examples" (PDF).
  19. ^ "Cisco SFP28 product examples".
  20. ^ "SFP28 LR 1310nm transceivers".
  21. ^ "SFP28 850nm example product" (PDF).
  22. ^ "25GbE SFP28 Active Optical Cable" (PDF). Mellanox. Retrieved 2018-10-25.
  23. ^ "Intel Ethernet SFP28 Twinaxial Cables" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-10-25.
  24. ^ "Cisco SFP28 direct attach cables" (PDF).
  25. ^ "Compact SFP, Compact SFF MSA group forms". Lightwave. February 20, 2008. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  26. ^
  27. ^ SFF-8432, Abstract, Page 1: "The mechanical dimensioning allows backwards compatibility between IPF modules plugged into most SFP cages which have been implemented to SFF-8074i. It is anticipated that when the application requires it, manufacturers will be able to supply cages that accept SFP style modules. In both cases the EMI leakage is expected to be similar to that when SFP modules and cages are mated."
  28. ^ SFF-8431, Chapter 2 Low Speed Electrical and Power Specifications, 2.1 Introduction, Page 4: "The SFP+ low speed electrical interface has several enhancements over the classic SFP interface (INF-8074i), but the SFP+ host can be designed to also support most legacy SFP modules."
  29. ^ John Gilmore. "Gigabit Ethernet fiber SFP slots and lock-in". Retrieved December 21, 2010.
  30. ^ "Reprogrammable SFPs".
  31. ^ "INF-8077i: 10 Gigabit Small Form Factor Pluggable Module" (PDF). Small Form Factor Committee. August 31, 2005. Retrieved 2017-03-16.
  32. ^ "FAQs for SFP+". The Siemon Company. 2010-08-20. Retrieved 2016-02-22.
  33. ^ SFF-8472 (PDF), 21 November 2014, retrieved 2017-03-16