Compatible or crap?
IT Budgets continue to shrink and IT departments are continually pushed to accomplish more with less. This has everyone in the industry looking for ways to save money on the IT equipment we purchase. One of the most visited options for saving money is by purchasing compatible SFP’s. Some companies are very reluctant in this change of thought process. We get scared when our Cisco partner finds out and tells us that if we use compatible SFP’s and our switch has an issue we voided our warranty. Is this true? Can Cisco revoke my warranty because I am using non-OEM SFP’s? It is possible, but very, very unlikely to happen. Let me explain why.
Some Cisco switches will flat out not pass traffic over a compatible SFP. When you install a non-Cisco SFP into a Cisco switch there is a process that runs in the background that checks the SFP’s serial number as well as vendor information. If it doesn’t match a Cisco part number, the switch automatically shuts down that port until a genuine Cisco SFP is installed. Now there is very simple command you can run to bypass this issue, but when you do you will see a warning like this:
Warning: When Cisco determines that a fault or defect can be traced to the use of third-party transceivers installed by a customer or reseller, then, at Cisco's discretion, Cisco may withhold support under warranty or a Cisco support program. In the course of providing support for a Cisco networking product Cisco may require that the end user install Cisco transceivers if Cisco determines that removing third-party parts will assist Cisco in diagnosing the cause of a support issue.
Basically Cisco is telling you that if you use a non-Cisco SFP and it leads to actual damage they may, at their discretion refuse any warranty support for your switch. If you call in for support they may make you install a Cisco genuine SFP to troubleshoot. ***When you buy a real First Party compatible SFP you won’t have to bypass anything. Your equipment will recognize the optic and it will be just as if you had installed a genuine Cisco SFP.
True first party SFP’s are the same as the OEM ones just have a different name on the label and the part number will usually have a –xx with some type of vendor specific values for xx.
What most don’t know is all they can really do is threaten anyways. You can do the research if you want. But, there was a regulation passed called The Magnuson-Moss Act in 1975 that specifically prohibits a manufacturer from revoking a warranty simply for using unapproved hardware. Unless they can prove or give compelling reason to think that the non-OEM hardware is at fault. So they can’t just revoke your warranty! That’s just like most people don’t keep putting on the exact same tires on their car as it came with from the factory. It won’t void your warranty if the horn stops working, or somethings wrong with the paint.
Are all non-OEM SFP’s the same?
The answer is definitely not. Some will drop more packets than there are grains of sand at the beach. Compared to the compatible SFP transceiver made by first-party companies, Cisco SFP transceiver comes with inflated price tag. While a first-party compatible SFP is drastically less expensive than a Cisco branded SFP transceiver. Another little known fact: I would say a good 80-90% of “first party” or “Compatible” SFP’s are made in the exact same factory as OEM ones. Simply for the fact that making these transceivers requires specific sophisticated equipment to make reliable optic hardware. Most of these companies make SFP’s for multiple OEM network equipment companies for example. Cisco, HP, Nortel, Juniper etc. With this being said chances are pretty slim that you will see any difference between a genuine Cisco SFP and any other true Tier 1 compatible other than the name on the label and a few hundred to a few thousand dollar price difference for the exact same product.
Personally I have never once seen or heard of anyone who had a piece of equipment die or have the warranty claim denied due to them using a non-OEM SFP. Due to the way they are made and the fact that they pass optic traffic there really isn’t a way to damage the equipment unless you’re just putting the SFP in the slot incorrectly and physically damage the port.
What kind of warranty/Guarantee should I expect?
Let me quote a line from the movie Tommy Boy: “all they sold ya was a guaranteed piece of Crap. That's all it is, isn't it? Hey, if you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed, I will. I got spare time.”
You should expect more than just an empty guarantee, everyone has a guarantee.When shopping for Compatible SFP’s do your homework. Meaning, buy from a reputable vendor who stands behind the SFP’s. Buy from someone who is going to give you a lifetime warranty and advanced replacement. This will give you the peace of mind and confidence needed to make the switch to compatible SFP’s. If this is your first time buying compatibles or maybe you have had a bad experience in the past with non-OEM compatibles ask the Vendor for a sample one to try in your equipment. I encourage you to test the optic out and see for yourself that it passes traffic, doesn’t just dump a ton of errors, or cause latency over the connection. You can use this exact process for other manufactures as well, not just Cisco.
By: Frank Greenwood