Dr. Lawrence Roberts
Light Reading: Let’s talk about your competitors. In terms of routers, they’re people like Avici, Cisco, Juniper, and Pluris. Would you include Foundry Networks Inc. on that list?
Larry Roberts: No. It’s Juniper, Avici, Cisco, IronBridge, and any others in that market. But the technology is nothing like any of those people.
Light Reading: How does this compare to optical switches from Sycamore Networks Inc., Ciena Corp., Corvis Corp., and Tellium Inc.. Does it compete with them, or is this a complementary technology?
Roberts: All of the optical products fit in a layer below ours, where they are used to manage the structure. Optical switches don’t do anything [to help] switch traffic. The lambda is too big an entity — it’s not granular enough. So you have to do packet switching. Optical is very cheap, but it’s not going to be a big part of the revenue picture. Optical ports will be 50 times cheaper than packet-switching ports. The real challenge is not how do you install optical end to end; it’s how do you use those optical channels? The challenge is: "How do I load those pipes?"
Light Reading: So to be clear, those companies will continue to build those products, and you will work over those products.
Roberts: [The optical layer] will just be underneath.
Light Reading: You’ve called your product an optical superswitch. What is optical about it?
Roberts: All the [external] interfaces are optical. Optical interfaces, with ASICs.
Light Reading: Are you doing the ASICs [application-specific integrated circuits] yourself?
Roberts: Well, we’re going with IBM.
Dallas Kachan [Caspian’s director of communications]: That hasn’t been formally announced yet.
Light Reading [laughing]: Until this afternoon. But you’re just talking about the manufacturing, not the design.
Roberts: The design is ours.
Light Reading: What about inside? We’ve heard negative feedback that this is PacketCom with an optical spin. Is that unfair? I mean, is there an optical crossconnect or an optical backplane in here?
Roberts: Yes, all of our interconnects between the external components are optical.
Light Reading: How do you set yourself apart from companies like Amber Networks Inc., which talks about carrier-class switch routers, or Village Networks Inc., which has an IP/optical product that also uses optical interconnects?
Roberts: The only people to compare us with are the petabit switches, because the other people are sitting in a different market. They’re too edge.
There’s another issue that’s subtler. One of our potential customers decided they’re just not going to buy any switches that aren’t 19 inches wide any more. They’ve made a formal decision to not buy 23-inch boxes, because they can’t fit them in their sites. Weight is another requirement. They don’t want to have to reinforce floors. These are the kinds of things that people should have been checking on before now.
Light Reading: It’s back to the fundamentals, isn’t it? How much does it weigh, how much does it cost, and will it burst into flames?
Roberts: [Carriers] are really looking to scale their networks over a reasonable period of time. Three years, for example. It really is a very serious problem for the service providers, because they can’t keep replacing [their equipment] all the time.