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XFP Module Gets a Shrink

Chip vendors and optics suppliers are crafting the next transceiver standard for 8-Gbit/s Fibre Channel and possibly 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, one that could eventually supplant XFP modules.

It's being called SFP+, and early standards talks are happening under the auspices of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Technical Committee T11 -- the group presiding over Fibre Channel. The most recent meeting was held in San Jose, Calif., hosted by Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), and the next session will likely come this month during the T11 interim meetings.

More than 30 companies reportedly were represented at last month's meeting -- mostly systems vendors, but also some module makers such as JDS Uniphase Corp. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) and cable/connector firms including Molex Inc. (Nasdaq: MOLXE) "A lot of the data center people are interested," says Bob Salem, a Broadcom senior product line manager.

SFP+ would be a smaller module than XFP. It removes electronics such as a chip for clock and data recovery, putting them on the linecard instead. This lets the module shrink to the size of the small-form pluggable (SFP) used for 2.5-Gbit/s ports.

Why does that matter? For starters, the engineering is easier when things are added to a linecard, as opposed to the module. A shift to SFP+ could lower the cost of optical modules. "A lot of our systems customers are telling us they need to find ways to lower the cost of a link. This is one way," Salem says.

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