Cisco 10GbE Optics Cheat Sheet

10GbE Optics modules explained

Over the years of 10 gigabit Ethernet's existence, there have been numerous different form factors and optics types introduced. The oldest, XENPAKs, remain very popular as the install base is large, while the newest SFP+ offer a much smaller form factor and the ability to offer 1G/10G combo ports on hardware for the first time. Like the move from GBIC to SFP the move from XENPAK to SFP+ seems inevitable, but currently there are four standard modules / form-factors available. This is a guide to these module types and optical standards currently available.

Module Types

10 GIG Optics Module Types

From left to right:

XENPAK - the original 10GbE pluggable optics. Presents SC connectors

X2 - the successor to the XENPAK. Presents SC connectors

XFP - the first of the small form factor 10GbE optics. Presents LC connectors

SFP+ - a 10GbE optics using the same physical form factor as a gigabit SFP. Because of this, many of the small SFP+ based 10GbE switches use 1G/10G ports, giving an added degree of flexibility. Presents LC connectors.

Within these form factors are many different types of optical and electrical specifications; the only requirement is that the optics type match. It is perfectly acceptable to connect an X2 to an SFP, or a XENPAK to an SFP+, or any other combination.

Optical Standards

Electrical/Copper

10GBase-CX4
CX4 modules use Infiniband 4X cabling, and have a maximum distance of 15 meters. CX4 is an early copper standard, and due to the physical size of the connector, is not available in SFP+ form, or in XFP form from Cisco (Dell Networking, though, offers a CX4 XFP). CX4 was designed as a drop-in replacement for legacy Infiniband switching hardware – the existing Infiniband cable plant can be reused in a CX4 based network.

    Product IdDescriptionQuote
X2-10GB-CX4 10GBASE-CX4 X2 Module

 

10GBase-CX1/10GBase-CU
10GBase-CX1 is the SFP+ copper standard. The standard has a maximum distance of 10 meters, though Cisco currently only offers lengths up to 5m. This is actually a cable with SFP+ ends, not a module with a separate cable.

Here is a picture:
Cisco 10GBase-CX1-SFP+ cable

Notice that the cable is permanently integrated into the SFP+ ends. Because of this, both devices must present SFP+ ports. While the cables are somewhat inconvenient to work with due to the integration, CX1 modules are used due to a very low cost ($150-$200 per cable), extremely low power consumption (0.25W per cable), and a negligible latency penalty.

    Product IdDescriptionQuote
SFP-H10GB-CU1M 10GBASE-CU SFP+ Cable 1 Meter
SFP-H10GB-CU3M 10GBASE-CU SFP+ Cable 3 Meter
SFP-H10GB-CU5M 10GBASE-CU SFP+ Cable 5 Meter

 

Multimode Fiber

10GBase-SR
10GBase-SR is the original multimode optics specification, and is still by far the most commonly used. As it uses a single, low cost solid state laser assembly, it is also the least expensive of the optical modules available for a 10GbE platform. However, 10GBase-SR is very sensitive to fiber type. Below is a list of cable specs and maximum distance with SR optics.

Core Size
(microns)
Modal Bandwidth
(MHz*km)
Max
Distance
Notes
62.5 160 26m This is standard multimode fiber.
62.5 200 33m  
50 400 66m  
50 500 82m  
50 2000 300m AKA: OM3 or 10GbE-optimized fiber

 

Because of this, it is highly recommended that any new deployment of multimode fiber be done with OM3 fiber. This will ensure an easier transition to 10GbE for future needs.

    Product IdDescriptionQuote
XENPAK-10GB-SR 10GBASE-SR XENPAK Module
X2-10GB-SR 10GBASE-SR X2 Module
XFP-10G-MM-SR 10GBASE-SR XFP Module
SFP-10G-SR 10GBASE-SR SFP Module

 

10GBase-LX4
To overcome the distance limitations of SR optics, the 10GBase-LX4 standard was developed. LX4 uses 4 lasers, each operating at a different wavelength, at a 2.5Gbps data rate. This results in a range of 240-300 meters, depending on cable grade. However, due to the complex laser assembly, it is not possible to get LX4 optics in XFP or SFP+ versions. With the ready availability of OM3 fiber and newer standards that provide long reach over multimode with a single laser, LX4 is rapidly becoming obsolete.

    Product IdDescriptionQuote
XENPAK-10GB-LX4 10GBASE-LX4 XENPAK MODULE
X2-10GB-LX4 10GBASE-LX4 X2 Module

 

10GBase-LRM
The replacement to LX4, 10GBase-LRM will reach up to 220m over standard multimode fiber, but without the complexity of the LX4 optics. Instead, a single laser operating at 1310nm is used. This allows LRM optics to be packaged in XFP and SFP+ form factors.

XENPAK-10GB-LRM 10G Base LRM Xenpak

Singlemode Fiber

10GBase-LR
10GBase-LR can reach up to 10km over singlemode fiber. There is no minimum distance for LR, either, so it is suitable for short connections over singlemode fiber as well.

    Product IdDescriptionQuote
XENPAK-10GB-LR 10GBASE-LR XENPAK MODULE

10GBase-ER
10GBase-ER can reach up to 40km over singlemode fiber. Due to the laser power, attenuation is required for links less than 20km long.

10GBase-ZR
ZR optics can reach up to 80km over singlemode fiber. Due to the very high transmit power, significant attenuation is needed for shorter links. Use of ZR optics should be preceded with an optical power test of the fiber span in question to ensure a problem-free deployment. Interestingly, 10GBase-ZR is actually not an IEEE standard, though most vendors offer a ZR option.

    Product IdDescriptionQuote
XENPAK-10GB-ZR 110GBASE-ZR XENPAK Module
XENPAK-10GB-LW 10GBASE-LW XENPAK Module

10GBase-LW
10GBase-LW optics use the same laser, and have the same specifications as the 10GBase-LR optics. However, the LW optics present SONET/SDH physical signaling, allowing LW-equipped devices to interface directly with an existing OC192 transport infrastructure. LW optics are only available in XENPAK and X2 form factors. XFP-based cards move this functionality from the transicever to the card itself, so make sure that if this functionality is needed, that the card itself has this support. The primary example is the as in the SPA-1X10GE-L-V2 vs the SPA-1X10GE-LW-V2.

10G over DWDM
With 10GbE, it is possible to get optics modules that output at DWDM wavelengths, allowing for much simpler DWDM deployments, and with these optics no additional transponder hardware is required. Current innovations in 10GbE/DWDM optics include full C-band tunability for ease of sparing, ordering, and provisioning of DWDM channels, as well as features like forward error correction (FEC) and OTN/G.709 support integrated directly onto the optic.

See our selection of DWDM and CWDM accessories here.

See our full selection of optics here.