Startup looks to disrupt metro optical economics

Another company has surfaced that claims to be able to shrink eight to 10 racks of functionality into one, and even into one shelf.

Start-up Movaz Networks will unveil products at SuperComm in June that combine optical transport, switching and add/drop muxing all in a 7-foot bay. One shelf of this bay holds what Movaz claims is a 1,000 x 1,000 wavelength cross connect and multiplexer that performs in one shelf what three to eight or 10 bays of equipment currently do.

The wavelength cross connect features 24 fibers - 12 in, 12 out - and is said to support 80 channels per fiber. Control plane logic, including GMPLS, is on a chip that replaces up to four bays of intelligence, Movaz claims.

On the surface, this sounds like a technological feat, an integration effort of the largest scale from a company founded less than a year ago. But John Booth, Movaz vice president of network strategies, says that view misses the point.

"It's not about technology, it's about economics," he says. "Everything is about economics."

Because of the space and equipment cost savings its gear provides, Movaz says service providers can now offer Gigabit Ethernet at the price of a DS-3, or a wavelength at the price of an STS-1. If your service provider is using Movaz gear, hold them to that.

But this is the same refrain heard from companies like Corvis Corp., Cinta Networks Inc., Altamar, Luxcore Networks Inc., Ilotron Ltd. and others: improved economics through the ability to pack multiple equipment bays into one or less. The difference is Movaz is tackling the metro market, where Sorrento plays, while the others are focused on the long-haul opportunity.

"There's enough capacity in the backbone today to meet needs for a very, very long time," Booth says. "But the metro is a conglomeration of different things. The metro is the bottleneck in the network."

Perhaps. But analysts say Movaz shied away from the long haul.

RHK Inc. Analyst Dave Krozier says he asked the company how its equipment bay consolidation story is any different from the vendors touting the same benefits for the long haul.

"Basically, their answer was, 'It's not. It could be used in the long-haul environment. It's just that, if we went into the long-haul environment, we'd have a lot more competition. We see that the metro can be a much bigger potential opportunity for us.'" Krozier also want to see proof that the Movaz concept works.

"These guys are claiming to put an awful lot into one little shelf," he says. "That's an awful small package for a 1,000 x 1,000 switch, as well as [dense wave division multiplexing] equipment. It seems like you'd be hard-pressed to fit (just) DWDM equipment into that package."

Booth says Movaz can execute based on its intellectual property - several patents on optical transport, photonic switching and control plane implementation, plus a star-studded roster of GMPLS engineers - and its 10-year exclusive arrangement with BF Goodrich for MEMS switch fabric production and packaging.

"This is the most disruptive technology I have ever seen" to the economics of the industry today, Booth claims. "We should become the Microsoft of the optical control plane."

Movaz will ship and take revenue on its products in the second half of 2001, Booth says.

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