Compatible Optics: Part II

ProLabs Optics Graphic

Once you’re convinced (after reading Part I earlier this week) that compatible optics can be just as effective as those from Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s), it’s time to find the right compatible optics provider for you.

As more companies look to save capital by buying optics from third-party hardware providers instead of manufacturers, it becomes increasingly important to ensure the quality of the optics. By understanding what qualifications to look for in a compatible optics provider, organizations can rest assured that they’ll conserve costs without sacrificing quality and network stability.

The following are tips provided by to successfully implementing compatible accessories into your network:

  1. Multi-source Agreement (MSA) Industry Standards
    The MSA’s identify universal specifications and ensure modules are of equal quality. When scoping out potential providers, the first question should be whether or not they adhere to the MSA’s. If not, move on—it’s that simple.
  2. Track Record
    It’s important to find out more about the provider’s track record. There are far too many companies out there that are simply providing the cheapest price—without the service, support, or warranties. Those companies will start up quickly and dissolve just as fast. There are several ways to research a company’s track record:

    1. Find out how long the company has been in business.
    2. Ask for customer references who can speak on their behalf, and follow-up with at least a couple of them.
    3. Check out the company’s reputation by word-of-mouth. Search online blogs and discussion forums which can reveal the truth about the technology and service behind the brand.
  3. Technical Expertise
    Technical knowledge is arguably the heart of any technology-focused business, especially one selling such products as optical transceivers. The provider’s level of technical expertise should be a large indicator when selecting a compatible supplier. Determine if the representatives take the time to learn some background about your network and assist you with finding the right optic (or options of optics) for your unique requirements. It’s also important to find check their datasheets (or spec sheets)—make sure they have product literature—and see how well the organization keeps them up-to-date and how professional they look.
  4. Testing
    A well know unwritten rule of compatible optics is third-party providers will offer free samples. If they don’t offer this, consider it a red flag. Also, no reputable organization will require customers to commit to making a purchase just by testing a compatible optic in your network. Steer clear of suppliers that push you on this issue. Not only do you want to test the product in your own network, but it’s important to ensure the organization thoroughly tests their products during all stages of the engineering process.
  5. Customization
    Only a handful of compatible optics suppliers offer the ability to customize optical transceivers to your unique specification requirements. Look for a supplier that has the capability to provide specs not generally offered standard OEM’s.
  6. Customer Service and Support
    Most buyers find that a supplier for anything is great until a problem occurs. Only then does the provider’s level of customer service really become apparent. Check to see if the supplier has an adequate number of dedicated customer service representatives able to deal with issues and answer questions that could arise.
  7. Logistics
    All of the other qualifications regarding quality and technical expertise are good, but if the provider cannot supply products in a timely manner, then nothing is accomplished. Thoroughly ask about the provider’s logistics operations. Can they ship parts to your organization in a timely manner to meet your organizational needs? Find out if the provider has enough inventories to supply products quickly. It’s also important that the potential provider has a back-up plan for the times when they do run out of inventory locally. For example, do they air ship the products at no extra cost?
  8. Warranties
    Most compatible optics providers provide a lifetime warranty. When evaluating compatible providers, look for one that provides a warranty equal or superior to the manufacturer.
    In addition, customers are often made to believe by OEM’s that using optical modules from a third-party provider will automatically void the warranty of other network equipment purchased through the OEM. This is not the case. In reality, the OEM must prove that optics from a third-party provider is faulty and the cause of a network failure in order to withhold support.

Not all compatible optical transceiver providers are created equal. Poor quality optics, although cheap, can be a detriment to a network so remember to do your research on your compatible optic provider. Your organization has options when it comes to purchasing optical modules. When selecting a provider, it’s important to consider the qualifications identified above to cut costs without sacrificing quality and network stability.

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