Altamar Unveils High-Density Switch

Ditech Communications Corp. (Nasdaq: DITC) has spawned an optical switch startup -- and it claims the new company's product has at least a thousand times the port density of any switch to date.

But for a number of reasons, the new startup will probably have to prove its claims in live trials to be believed.

Ditech's created a wholly owned subsidiary, Altamar Networks, for its product, and both are being introduced today. Called Titanium, Altamar's switch is said to offer up to 16,384 OC48 (2.5 Gbit/s) or OC192 (10 Gbit/s) ports and use less space than any other optical switch on the market today.

Altamar says Titanium is a provisioning switch that offers DWDM (dense wavelength-division multiplexing) and network management capabilities. It has an electrical backplane, which would put it into the competition with switches from Brightlink Networks Inc., Tellium Inc., and Sycamore Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SCMR) (see Optical Taxonomy page 7 for clarification).

So far, those competing switches offer about 512 to 1,000 ports. Altamar says Titanium offers 16,384 -- and will offer 2 million by 2003!

On closer inspection, though, it looks like reality is a bit less dramatic than Altamar claims -- at least right now. The company says that its switch supports just 128 ports per unit at present.

Market Positioning Still, Altamar maintains that Titanium takes fewer units than other vendors to support its maximum density. Specifically, Altamar spokespeople say Titanium supports a total of 16,384 ports in a multiple-switch configuration that is set up to act as a single switch.

This single-switch setup includes enough gear to fill 56 telecom bays (three-shelf racks designed to hold gear). Other vendors' switches, Altamar says, would consume about 600 bays to provide the same capacity.

Altamar says it achieves its scale in part by using short-reach, parallel fiber connections between its transponders and switches, instead of relying on 1310-nanometer links for inter-switch communications, as other vendors do.

Altamar's announcement has left some analysts skeptical. "If they can support the kind of capacity they claim to, it would be great," says Nancee Ruzicka, program manager at The Yankee Group. However, she says the startup would have to be doing something "pretty special" to overcome issues of power and rack space that have vendors such as Tellium claiming triumph in offering fewer than 1,000 ports.

Another puzzlement is how a switch of this size could emerge from Ditech. The company's chief claim to optical fame comes from its purchase last year of Atmosphere Networks for about $85 million in stock and $10 million in cash (see Atmosphere Comes Back to Earth). That purchase, considered a cheap deal at the time, was said by some to be a last-ditch effort to save a company that had bet on the wrong technologies (see Hazy Atmosphere Hangs Over Ditech).

Ditech claimed last year that it had bought Atmosphere for the employees. And indeed, it's managed to hold onto some key engineers. It's even added to the original 55 employees. Now 60 engineers work at Altamar.

But the question remains: Can a startup that banked on ATM-based Sonet really have produced a switch to beat Tellium's?

Ditech certainly hopes that it has. The company, which makes echo cancellation gear, had a disastrous third quarter ending January 31, 2001, in which revenues were $13.3 million, down 60 percent from the same time last year. Ditech, whose revenues come largely from five customers, is also fighting for its life against vendors like Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), which recently started bundling echo cancellation into their gear, threatening to displace Ditech's offerings.

Ditech says it's formed Altamar in order to gain focus and credibility in the optical space. It says Altamar already has several carriers looking over its switch, and at least one has committed to buying it.

-- Mary Jander, senior editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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Xcited01 12/4/2012 | 8:46:32 PM
re: Altamar Unveils High-Density Switch #1 - Ditech is weak.... take a look at the management team.

#2 - OEO switches are for the edge, not the Core. Large Carriers will be designing and building next-gen networks with OOO in the Core, and OEO switches at the edge as grooming devices. Therefore, with nobody needing this type of capacity at the edge, this product is useless.

#3 - Atmosphere Networks engineers were poor with optical access, who would even begin to believe they will survive in the core.

- Xcited01 -
Me 12/4/2012 | 8:46:32 PM
re: Altamar Unveils High-Density Switch Is this unique to them or can others do this? Does anyone know what their technology is and if it is proprietary?

Will carriers want this many ports?
Me 12/4/2012 | 8:46:31 PM
re: Altamar Unveils High-Density Switch Thanks.

I would assume that this switch cannot do grooming. Is this true?

Is grooming a killer app?
numeruno 12/4/2012 | 8:46:28 PM
re: Altamar Unveils High-Density Switch i though sycamore has optical backplane, anyone got a clue ??
Peter Heywood 12/4/2012 | 8:46:28 PM
re: Altamar Unveils High-Density Switch Right now, Sycamore has an electrical core, but like most optical switch vendors, it's announced plans for having an optical core as well, in the future.

It's an investor in OMM, which makes MEMS based optical switching fabric.

As one of the other posters noted, the killer app right now revolves around electrical core switches and their ability to do STSn grooming.
opstar 12/4/2012 | 8:46:25 PM
re: Altamar Unveils High-Density Switch Xcited01, or folks who know:

How does "router-centric" architecture differ from "optical intelligence" centric, in terms of technological impact onto carriers' networks?

Appreciate it very much!
Dr. Freud 12/4/2012 | 8:46:13 PM
re: Altamar Unveils High-Density Switch This is just 128 x 128 matrix switching. Can't a number of vendors can top that, with planned 512 x 512 or 1024 x 1024? I'm not going to plug anyone in particular.

opti fool 12/4/2012 | 8:46:13 PM
re: Altamar Unveils High-Density Switch Greater minds might diasagree, but the root of 16,384 is 128. I think we need to be a little discerning when vendors talk about switch fabric density.

Xcited01 12/4/2012 | 8:46:08 PM
re: Altamar Unveils High-Density Switch Tim Montgomery was weak at best. Sounded like the conference call when they bought Atmosphere Networks. Montgomery claims this "box" is going to be the next big thing! However, when asked by the analyst community about the product - he nothing much to say other than "it's premature to talk about it" He bragged about four big carriers they have talked with about this product, but when pressed, admitted they do not have anyone specifically interested in trialing the "box" and "it's premature to talk about it".

Once again, you have a lousy company trying to lift it's stock price with vaporware! Montgomery and his team are not optical guys, and the folks at Ciena, Nortel, Corvis, and Sycamore will eat their lunch - if they even get this "box" to market.

- Xcited01 -
arpan 12/4/2012 | 8:45:59 PM
re: Altamar Unveils High-Density Switch Xcited01 This is in reponse to an earlier email.

#1: I have to strongly disagree with you when you say ditech's management team was weak. Tim was an excellent CEO and brought in a lot of key people at ditech including toni bellin who ran the manufacturing side really well. He also brought in a lot of good sales people and ramped up sales. In addition I have heard very good things about rob newman but I don't know how exactly he plans to help w/ altamar. Ian Wright on the other hand made 2 promises to me that he did NOT keep which might say something about him as a manager but then again as an engineer he seems very solid. The one person I think is an absolute idiot is Evan Petridis who does not seem to have any tact when he is dealing with people and which is why several people left.
I have not worked for another management team and thus cannot compare them but while I was with ditech overall I thought that they were good.

#2 OEO switches are for the edge???? How did you get to this conclusion? Large carriers are NOT interested in deploying any OOO shit in the core. Where did you get this information from? They are extremly lossy and in addition expensive. Can you name a few people that are selling OOO switches in large quantities? The only one I know of is Calient and they are not shipping. I do agree with the overall idea that carriers are probably in the future going to be less interested in deploying large OEO switches in the core and if you want me to justify that email me at [email protected] I think this product can sell but the product is going to have a short life cycle. Again if you want me to justify my last statement email me.

#3 How can you make the judgement that atmosphere networks employees were poor? I had the opportunity to work with some of them and learned quite a lot from working with them. There were a few idiots but that does not give you the right to generalize.

Who are you by the way?

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