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XFP Gets the Fast Track

ATLANTA -- OFC 2003 -- Futuristic technologies like 40-Gbit/s OC768 may be out of favor, but at least one next-generation technology could be a hit at the OFC Conference this week: XFP modules for 10-Gbit/s transceivers.

Finisar Corp. (Nasdaq: FNSR) and Ignis Optics are among the module vendors demonstrating XFP at the show, and larger companies such as Infineon Technologies AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: IFX) and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) have made recent XFP announcements as well (see Infineon Intros XFP Modules, Others and Intel Launches Five GigE Products).

Sure, part of what's going on is the usual tradeshow hype. But there's also a feeling that XFP is gaining quicker acceptance than even the module vendors expected. "Even very traditional telecom OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] are starting to implement XFP in next-generation products," says Christian Urricariet, director of marketing for Finisar.

Quick review: XFP is a multisource agreement (MSA) that dictates size, shape, and interfaces for a transceiver module (see XFP Unveils Spec). It's the latest in a succession of MSAs for 10-Gbit/s:

  • The 300-pin MSA is the reigning champ, claiming most of the shipments today. It converts between a 10-Gbit/s optical signal and sixteen 622-Mbit/s electrical signals.
  • Xenpak is the first improvement on the 300-pin MSA, using four 3.125-Gbit/s channels on the electrical side. OEMs wanting to launch products immediately are going with Xenpak, and Intel officials say we should see Xenpak-packed switches announced next quarter.
  • But Xenpak was a rush job and is larger than desired, so the XPAK and X2 MSAs are dueling it out as the next step for these modules (see Is Xenpak Past It? and The X-Wars: Agilent Strikes First). These each use four lanes of 3.125 Gbit/s.
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