Photonami 'Bursts' Onto Scene

Canadian startup talks up trio of metro systems, but keeps mum on funding

February 20, 2002

2 Min Read
Photonami 'Bursts' Onto Scene

At a time when equipment startups are struggling to get by, out struts Photonami Inc., a Canadian optical equipment vendor that says it's building three new pieces of gear for metropolitan area networks (see Photonami Intros 'IDWDM').

Photonami's got three products planned, all under the umbrella name of "Intelligent DWDM" (IDWDM): an add/drop mux, called the Optical Burst Director; an all-optical hub, called the Optical Burst Node; and an all-optical crossconnect, called the Optical Burst Switch. Inside the upcoming boxes are several components designed by Photonami, including a surface-emitting distributed feedback (DFB) laser.

In fact, the sheer number of self-made components in Photonami's systems causes some to wonder if their focus is split between building systems and building parts. "I'm concerned that they've put a lot of energy into developing so many of their own components," says Maria Zeppetella, VP of network infrastructure at Probe Research Inc. "That sometimes doesn't work out for startups."

The company has said little regarding the specifics of each device. Mostly, it's pitching its Optical Burst Director as a way to efficiently transport packet-based traffic.

Richard Pearce, Photonami's VP of business development, says the technology behind Optical Burst Switching makes more efficient use of a network by allowing wavelengths to be reused as needed to support traffic patterns.

Here's what happens: Photonami gear accumulates traffic bound for a specific destination up to a preset volume or for a present hold time. When the time is right, the Photonami box creates a lambda path and sends the data. The box then tears the lambda path down and makes it available for reuse.

Optical Burst Switching can be offered in a ring topology using Photonami's add/drop mux, or in a star or mesh network using all three pieces of gear.

Pearce says the add/drop mux can be added to an existing network where needed, without disturbing the flow of traffic. "It can offload lambda services, high bandwidth circuits, and also packet traffic – anything that's clogging the current metro network," he says.

For now, though, there are only promises. Photonami won't have a product ready for carrier trials until sometime in the second half of this year, according to Pearce.

The company, founded in May 2000, employs more than 60 people. Whitecap Venture Partners and Centara Corp. are its only backers. Pearce says the company "isn't comfortable" disclosing how much venture capital it has raised to date.

Photonami is led by Blaine Hobson, who was most recently an entrepreneur-in-residence with Whitecap.

— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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