Will Third Party Optics Void My Warranty?
If you're a data-center operator, a data-center architect, or even just a purchasing manager, you have an important decision to make: Do you buy optical transceivers from your router and switch manufacturer or do you choose a third-party optics vendor? It can be a challenging question to answer. On one hand, OEM transceivers can be an order of magnitude more expensive than the (frequently identical) third-party versions. On the other hand… actually, there is no other hand, just a widely held misconception that using third-party optics in switches and routers will void your warranty. It won't. In fact, in the United States, purchasers are protected from this type of situation by law.
Let's start with the legislation. In the late 1890s, businesses such as Standard Oil and American Tobacco had strategically evolved into monopolies. To protect consumers, Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act. Among the many protections offered by the Sherman Antitrust Act, it was used to protect against the practice of tying. For purposes of this discussion, we care about horizontal tying, in which the purchase of one product requires the purchase of another. In some cases, manufacturers use the technique to coerce customers into buying the tied product, whether they want it or not. A printer manufacturer, for example, might threaten to void the warranty unless the customer buys proprietary ink cartridges, thus tying the printer cartridges to the purchase of the printer.
The Sherman Antitrust Act has been used in anti-tying lawsuits, including in the case of that printer manufacturer (Xerox, by name). In a separate case, Jefferson Parish Hosp. Dist. No. 2 v. Hyde, the Supreme Court concluded, “…the essential characteristic of an invalid tying arrangement lies in the seller's exploitation of its control over the tying product to force the buyer into the purchase of a tied product that the buyer either did not want at all or might have preferred to purchase elsewhere on different terms. When such "forcing" is present, competition on the merits in the market for the tied item is restrained, and the Sherman Act is violated.” In other words, no, you can't do that.
24 years after the passage of the Sherman act, the Clayton Antitrust act was passed to strengthen protections, including prohibition of tying.
What all this means is that there are legal protections against a manufacturer arbitrarily voiding the warranty on a switch or router simply for the use of third-party optics. This holds for other components such as cables and memory modules. The Cisco website, for example, clearly states that the warranty on a product would be upheld, even if it was being used with third party optics, so long as those optics were not the cause of the defect.
Third Party Components Support
The Cisco guideline for support and warranty services for the use of third-party memory, cables, gigabit interface controllers (GBICs), filters, or other non-Cisco components is as follows:
When a customer reports a product fault or defect and Cisco believes the fault or defect can be traced to the use of third-party memory products, cables, GBIC's, filters, or other non-Cisco components by a customer or reseller, then, at Cisco's discretion, Cisco may withhold support under warranty or a Cisco support program such as SMARTnet™ service.
When a product fault or defect occurs in the network, and Cisco concludes that the fault or defect is not attributable to the use of third-party memory, cables, GBICs, filters, or other non-Cisco components installed by a customer or reseller, Cisco will continue to provide support for the affected product under warranty or covered by a Cisco support program.
This brings us to the secret of many equipment vendors, which is that they purchase their optical transceivers elsewhere and private label them. Given that only a limited number of transceiver manufacturers exist, chances are good that the source of that proprietary transceiver is the same as that of the third-party optic. Assuming the transceiver is manufactured by a company that participates in the appropriate multi-source agreement (MSA) and meets specifications, the component should operate just as well as the proprietary product, leaving the warranty (and your budget) intact.
Contact us to find out more about how our optical transceivers deliver reliable performance with value pricing.
Related links: SFP+, 40G QSFP+, 100G QSFP28
About the Author
Michael Ko is the Managing Director of LightBolt