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Is QSFP56 backwards compatible?
Knowledge Base + 2024.01.10

QSFP56 (Quad Small Form-Factor Pluggable Double Density) is designed to support higher data rates, specifically 200 Gigabit Ethernet (200GbE) and 400 Gigabit Ethernet (400GbE). While the physical form factor of the QSFP56 module is similar to its predecessors, such as QSFP28 (100GbE), it's important to note that the electrical and signaling specifications have evolved to accommodate the higher data rates. 

The backward compatibility of QSFP56 depends on the specific implementation and the networking equipment being used. Here are some general considerations:

  1. Mechanical Compatibility: QSFP56 modules share the same physical form factor as QSFP28 modules, which means they have the same size and shape. This allows QSFP56 modules to physically fit into QSFP28 ports on networking equipment.

  2. Electrical Compatibility: QSFP56 uses a higher data rate, with four lanes operating at 50 Gbps (PAM4 modulation) for 200GbE or 100 Gbps (PAM4 modulation) for 400GbE. While the form factor allows for mechanical compatibility, the electrical signaling is different from QSFP28, which uses 25 Gbps lanes.

  3. Backward Compatibility: In some cases, networking equipment may be designed to support both QSFP28 and QSFP56 modules in the same ports, providing a level of backward compatibility. This is often referred to as QSFP-DD (Double Density) ports, which can accept both QSFP28 and QSFP56 modules.

  4. Cable and Connectivity: Compatibility also extends to the cables and connectivity infrastructure. QSFP56 modules may require new cables that support the higher data rates.

Always refer to the specific documentation provided by the equipment manufacturer for accurate information on compatibility. If considering an upgrade from QSFP28 to QSFP56 or vice versa, it's essential to ensure that both the networking equipment and the modules are compatible with the desired configuration.