Why are Multi-Source Agreements (MSAs) Important?

Keith AndrewsPresident
Multi-source agreements are important because they set standards that all manufacturers should follow to ensure that devices are compatible with multiple vendors. The multi-source agreement (MSA) is an agreement that establishes how multiple vendors co-exist in a competitive market for interoperable products. Every designer should be familiar with MSAs and how they affect their designs.

Why are Transceiver MSA Standards Important? 
Optical transceiver devices are some of the most popular devices available. The documentation will define the characteristics of any type of optical transceiver system. MSAs are important because they give consumers piece of mind that transceiver devices will have a basic level of operability. 

With standards, consumers have more freedom in the choices they make. Sure, some products are superior to others, but the basic functionality and operability of all transceiver devices will be the same with these devices. This will allow people to compete and gain a share of the market without creating a design that’s completely different from all other devices. 

Standards force suppliers to be efficient and creative to find ways to drive costs down and offer customers more for their money. However, many companies have tried to find loopholes around the value around the MSAs. For instance, some people have tried to write unique code into the undefined memory of EEPROM of each SFP/SFP+. 

Typically, when transceivers are inserted into the host switch, the EEPROM will be easy to read. If the code is not correct, it will be rejected and be deemed incompatible. Many module suppliers have determined how to generate and program certain parts with proper codes. Because of this, they are not distinguishable from the brand name parts of the host systems. System vendors will use the tactics to protect consumers from grossly inflated prices. They also introduce standards to support and encourage creation and standards. 

What do MSA Standards Define? 
The mechanical interface is one of the main focuses of MSA standards. The mechanical dimensions of the device and transceiver edge connector of the PCB-mounted electrical connector mating are defined in the MSA standards. In addition to these requirements, the mechanical dimensions of the device and the transceiver edge connector to host PCB-mounted electrical connector mating are part of the MSA standard.

Host board mechanical layout, insertion, retention, and extraction are also defined by MSAs, as are labeling, bezel design considerations for host systems, and electrical connector mechanical aspects. Cage assembly dimensions and the electrical interface are also defined in the host system. Within the electrical interface, you can expect to find pin definitions and timing requirements also. 

When the devices are designed according to industry standards, life is easier for every consumer in the market for a transceiver device. They have less to be concerned about and less to be worried about in terms of compatibility and reliability. 

The Importance of MSAs in the World of Transceiver Design
MSAs are important in the field of transceiver design to ensure that consumers yield desirable outcomes from their designs. Otherwise, the outcomes would be less predictable, and designers may waste resources trying to find the perfect transceiver for their design because fundamentally the device is not compatible with most designs. Every designer should be aware of MSAs and how they impact their designs in the world to ensure that their solutions are robust, reliable, consistent, and deliver optimal performance.

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