MEMS devices can be successfully commercialized in favour of competing technologies only if they offer an advantage to the customer in terms of lower cost or increased functionality. There are limited markets where MEMS can be manufactured cheaper than similar technologies due to large volumes: automotive, printing technology, wireless communications, etc. However, success in the marketplace can also be realized by adding significant value to a system at minimal cost or leverging MEMS technology when other solutions simply will not work. This paper describes a thermally actuated, MEMS based, variable optical attenuator that is co-packaged with existing opto-electronic devices to develop an integrated 10Gb/s SONET/SDH receiver. The configuration of the receiver opto-electronics and relatively low voltage availability (12V max) in optical systems bar the use of LCD, EO, and electro-chromic style attenuators. The device was designed and fabricated using a silicon-on-insulator (SOI) starting material. The design and performance of the device (displacement, power consumption, reliability, physical geometry) was defined by the receiver parameters geometry. This paper will describe how these design parameters (hence final device geometry) were determined in light of both the MEMS device fabrication process and the receiver performance. Reference will be made to the design tools used and the design flow which was a joint effort between the MEMS vendor and the end customer. The SOI technology offered a robust, manufacturable solution that gave the required performance in a cost-effective process. However, the singulation of the devices required the development of a new singulation technique that allowed large volumes of silicon to be removed during fabrication yet still offer high singulation yields.