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The Truth About Cisco Compatible Optics - Part 2 of 4

by Aaron Mandelbaum on June 2, 2013

Read Part 1  It is natural for any network manager to assume that if their network elements are Cisco, then they need Cisco’s optics in order for everything to function properly. cisco-equipment-5

The good news is that other companies are able to offer the same products that are preprogrammed with their own firmware that has been developed with the specific intention of making it compatible with Cisco systems (or any other system, depending on the product in question).  Third party companies charge up to 90% less for their products, giving them a highly effective business model.  The one and only difference between an optical transceiver from Cisco vs. an optical transceiver from a compatible company is the cost.  The third party companies simply don't over-inflate the price.

Many consumers are completely unaware of this reality and some will even insist that the only way to ensure that their money is wisely spent is to purchase name-brand optics.  Yet, as the economy continues to struggle and budgets continue to shrink while demand for various services and products rises, the situation appears more and more ridiculous.  Why would anyone prefer to pay a thousand times what a commodity product is actually worth if they don’t have to?

Compatible Products: Nothing But Benefit

The main difference between a third party distributor and an OEM is what they do.  Third party distributors that offer compatible products typically offer a large variety of products that are compatible with all the major OEMs.  OEMs offer a specific range of products that work with their systems and their systems only.  A business running Cisco, for example, needs optics that are compatible with Cisco’s switches.  Cisco as a company has no interest whatsoever in making sure their optical transceivers work properly in a Juniper switch.  As such, they only purchase and redistribute optics for their products.  3rd Party businesses have a completely different business model.  

The important point to understand from all of the above is that the two business types have very little in common other than that they offer the exact same hardware for vastly different prices.  Unfortunately,  many network managers and purchasing clerks are under the impression that third party distributors offer products as such an enormous discount at the cost of quality.  As mentioned in the previous section, however, there is no difference between the products at all as both the optics sold by Cisco and those sold by reputable companies are manufactured by the same contractors.  As a result, there is literally no discernible difference in quality or manufacture between a GBIC, SFP, SFP+, X2, XENPAK purchased from Cisco and Cisco compatible optics purchased from Hummingbird Networks.

Naturally, the main concern once worries about quality have been addressed, would be compatibility.  It is reasonable to expect Juniper to sell products that are guaranteed compatible with their systems yet consumers may not have that same comfort level when purchasing from a third party distributor.

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Topics: Optical Transceivers, Cisco Compatible Optical Transceivers

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