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PROFILE PROLABS UK


vendors then sell the transceivers for much less than the OEM would charge, typically up to 70 per cent less. Te quality assurance process starts even


before the blank transceivers arrive at ProLabs’ warehouse. Head of operations, Simon Hopcraſt, heads out to visit their main suppliers to carry out a mini audit. ‘You get sense from the people on the ground, about how they look aſter their product, he said. ‘Are they really serious about making a good quality product that could go anywhere in the world, and that we are proud to put our name on.’ Once in ProLabs’ facility, the transceivers


are quality checked at multiple stages: when they arrive, when they’re coded, and again before they are shipped. Te most critical check is to plug the transceiver into a representative OEM system in the lab, to verify that it operates correctly, and that data traffic passes without errors. Engineers then check all the diagnostic monitoring functions on the transceivers and finally, before it ships, they perform an optical port and vision inspection. ‘Tis is a real differentiator between what


we’re doing and what you’ll find [at other suppliers] in the compatibles market space. Some people will literally buy in from China and ship it out again, without knowing whether it’s working or not,’ explained Christian Rookes, vice president of product management at ProLabs.


Figure 1: The compatible pipeline


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Transceivers


Program Vendor


Compatible EEPROM


Code Verify in Target Platform


Digital Optical Monitor Alarm test


Equipment Traffic Test


Cables


Optical Port & Visual Inspection


Ready to Ship


Over time ProLabs has built up knowledge


of all the different vendor equipment codes and the way they operate. Te company now has an extensive range that it has developed to work with 20,000 pieces of equipment from more than 50 OEMs, including Cisco, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Intel and Juniper. ‘Tis kind of applied quality checking means ProLabs can engage with some very large telecoms companies, which is not something that the compatibles market can do in general,’ claimed Rookes. With the supply chain in place, ProLabs now


believes its main challenge is to educate the customer about the compatibles market. ‘We oſten get asked by customers, is this dodgy, is this illegal? It is absolutely not,’ said Rookes.


When you buy a replacement part for your car, there is no need to buy the expensive manufacturer branded part; the end customer can choose from a range of aſtermarket suppliers, usually at much cheaper prices. Te optical module market should offer the same degree of customer choice, he contends. Some customers may be concerned that the


use of third-party products could invalidate their warrantee, but that’s not the case according to ProLabs. ‘Cisco has never put that in writing,’ Rookes commented. Naturally


The main challenge is to educate the customer about the compatibles market


Cisco and other manufacturers don’t want customers to buy outside their own sales channel, but there is no real obstacle to prevent customers from buying third-party products. In Europe, any warrantee tie-in, whether implied or explicit, would be illegal, according to ProLabs. Te benefits of compatible parts can also


Senior test and applications engineer David Knight checks that ProLabs compatibles work in the intended platform


include functionality that’s not available from the original manufacturer. For instance, ProLabs offers parts for legacy systems that are no longer supported. It also provides multi- coded transceivers that have been coded to work with three vendors: Arista, Cisco and Juniper. Tis helps data centre operators economise on internal processes and storage space, with just one part number to manage instead of three. ProLabs can also offer direct-attach cables


20 FIBRE SYSTEMS Issue 11 • Spring 2016


Pauline Rigby


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