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A Detailed Introduction to MSA Standard and MSA SFP 2023

Author Aiyden

Date 03/17/2022

MSA is an agreement by multiple industry manufacturers to make products from different vendors with interoperability and interchangeability. An MSA SFP is an affordable equivalent to a premium OEM brand.

If you are a practitioner in the telecommunications industry, you must have encountered the term MSA here and there. Specifically, you may see the word MSA appearing in the SFP MSA specification table of the transceiver module, such as SFP MSA, SFP+ MSA, QSFP28 MSA, QSFP-DD MSA, OSFP MSA, etc. What does MSA stand for? What about MSA SFP? What has been approved by the multi-source agreement? Why is MSA essential for interoperable products? Is there quick access to check MSA compliant transceiver form factors and specifications? This post is a comprehensive guide to MSA standard and MSA compliant SFP modules.


“QSFP28 MSA in QSFP-100G-CWDM4-S specification of QSFPTEK


What is MSA in Networking?

MSA is an abbreviation for various terminology, however, it has a unique meaning in different fields. For technology in the telecom industry, the term refers to the multi-source agreement


MSA is an agreement by multiple industry manufacturers to make products from different vendors with interoperability and interchangeability. Namely, if device A made by OEM A and matching component B from vendor B are compliant with MSA standards, they will work fine.


In optical fiber communication, MSA compliant products include equipment and components. The former is broad networking devices such as Ethernet switches, network interface cards (NICs), routers. The latter covers fiber optic transceivers, DACs and AOCs, etc. The common in these products are - the interface of them needs to plug into another port or to be plugged in by another product. MSA ensures these interfaces can function well with each other.


What does SFP MSA Define?

To solve the issue that products made by different manufacturers cannot be adapted in a system, branded networking manufacturers participate in the development of this MSA standard. For instance, System contributors to INF-8074i SFP MSA include Finisar, IBM, Agilent Technologies, etc. Indeed, the multi-source agreement is not an official standard by a patent agency but acts as a de-facto standard. 


The MSA standard strictly specifies the form factors and function parameters for system components, so those equipment vendors can adhere to the standard to design the telecommunication interfaces.


MSA documents are defining transceivers from multiple dimensions, such as package dimensions, electrical connectors, labeling, DDM functions, etc. The following lists the basic specifications that an SFP MSA defines.


QSFPTEK manufactured multi-vendor compatible SFPs are based on MSA standards

Mechanical Interface

1. SFP Transceiver Package Dimensions 

2. Mating of SFP Transceiver PCB to SFP Electrical Connector 

3. Host Board Layout 

4. Insertion, Extraction and Retention Forces for SFP Transceivers 

5. Labeling of SFP Transceivers 

6. Bezel Design for Systems Using SFP Transceivers

7. SFP Electrical Connector Mechanical Specifications 

8. SFP Cage Assembly Dimensions

9. Dust / EMI Cover

Electrical Interface

1. Pin Definitions 

2. Timing Requirements of Control and Status I/O 

3. Module Definition Interface and Data Field Description


Note: to check detailed info of a specific MSA standard, please go to the last part for an MSA PDF document.


Why MSA Standard Matters for Optical Transceivers?

Among the interoperable products in the market, the optical transceiver is an essential

system component for optical fiber communication. Since networking devices rely on a small accessory for data connection. A third-party MSA compliant SFP is an affordable equivalent to that of a premium OEM brand. The following part illustrates the importance of multi-source agreement from three perspectives.

3rd-Party Module Vendor — Contributes to Raising its Market Share

Lots of third-party vendors provide compatible SFPs, often listed as specific brand and model compatible, and MSA standard compliant. Further, some 3rd-party vendors provide generic compatible MSA SFPs, which can be tailored into multiple brands compatible optics as long as they can be decoded.


By now, you should have seen the difference. The features of MSA guaranteed compatibility, mature decoding technology, and cost-effectiveness take the concern of module procurement down in one fell swoop.



According to the data analysis from Research Nester, the YoY growth rate of the third-party optical transceivers market is showing a continuous upward trend. By 2027F, the growth rate will reach up to 8.18%.

Network Operator — Provides with Choice Flexibility and Cost-Effectiveness

Given that the MSA process has pushed the formation of a competitive market of third-party module suppliers, customers have the freedom to shop from various 3rd-party SFP manufacturers. The benefits are rest assurance, cost-saving, and compatibility flexibility.


For example, there is a pair of Cisco switches. You need two Cisco QSFP-100G-SR4-S modules to achieve a direct connection within a short range.



If shopping MSA standard optics from a 3rd-party vendor such as QSFPTEK, it only costs $77.8 for two pieces. If buying an OEM one, it will cost you 1142 dollars ($571 × 2) by itprice.com offer at the sale price. 


Third-Party vs OEM QSFP-100G-SR4-S Price Comparision
  MSA Compliant OEM
Compatibility Cisco Compatible Cisco OEM
Vendor Name QSFPTEK itprice
LIst Price US$ 59.90 US$ 2379.17
Sale Price US$ 39.90 US$ 571.00
2 Piece Price US$ 79.80 US$ 1142.00
(click the pic to shop)


First, the MSA standard guarantees the MSA SFPs are identical in form factors and functions to the OEM ones so that they are interoperable with all networking equipment. Second, you can cut your budget by about 95% by buying a compatible module than an OEM module. Besides, MSA standard SFPs are future-proof and extend the system's lifespan. One day you might need to replace your communication device from brand A into B, your existing MSA compliant modules can continue to work by switching decoding technology.

System Manufacturer — Offers a Guideline for Interface Design

It is the multi-source agreement that guides the equipment vendors to design their device communication interfaces, ensuring MSA-compliant SFPs will work on them.


Quick Access to SFP MSA List

Transceiver modules are developing into different form factors and models, accordingly directed MSA multi-source agreements to standardize a specific one. Besides, there are extra reversions for additions such as applications and management. 


The table below is quick access to all the available MSA standards divided by module form factors, including SFP MSA, SFP+ MSA, SFP28 MSA, QSFP MSA, QSFP+ MSA, QSFP28 MSA, QSFPDD MSA, QSFP56 MSA, XFP MSA, etc.

Source from SFF TA TWG. 



Type MSA ID Release Date Revision Title
INF-8077i 2005/8/31 4.5 10 Gigabit Small Form Factor Pluggable Module
SFF-8477 2009/12/4 1.4 Tunable XFP for ITU Frequency Grid Applications (additions to the INF-8077)


Type MSA ID Release Date Revision Title
INF-8074 2001/5/12 1.0 SFP (Small Formfactor Pluggable) Transceiver
INF-8478 2003/5/30 3.0 OC48 DWDM Pluggable Transceiver
SFF-8089 2005/2/3 1.3 SFP (Small Formfactor Pluggable) Rate and Application Codes
SFF-8079 2005/2/2 1.7 SFP Rate and Application Selection
SFF-8075 2001/7/3 1.0 PCI Card Version of SFP Cage



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Related Article:

Why Choose Third-Party Transceiver Modules?





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