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Cinta Aims BigCinta Aims Big

The closely watched startup announces a giant optical switch that combines transport

March 14, 2001

3 Min Read
Cinta Aims Big

Bells started ringing when Cinta Networks Inc. came out of hiding today and gave preliminary information about its developments (see Cinta Announces WaveJunction).

Cinta is developing a combined optical switch and transport system with the goal of slashing carrier costs by eliminating electronic interfaces. But getting further details on the technology being used by the startup is like getting blood out of a stone.

Yep. Cinta looks like another Corvis Corp. (Nasdaq: CORV), albeit one that’s missed the boom time for IPOs and isn’t led by such a well-known chief executive as Corvis’s David Huber. Cinta’s CEO, John Vaughn, only joined the company in November, having been an exec with Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) beforehand.

Cinta also differs from Corvis in having a single box, called the WaveJunction LS3000 Lambda Switch, rather than a separate optical switch and long-haul DWDM (dense wavelength-division multiplexing) transmission system.

Like Corvis’s switch, Cinta’s Wavejunction performs wavelength switching. In other words, it sits in the middle of an optical network routing whole wavelengths from one place to the other. It doesn’t sit at the edge, packing wavelengths with smaller bandwidth connections, as grooming switches do (see Brightlink Works on Its Grooming).

Cinta is known to be using tunable lasers for its switch, which can be configured to allow some optical signals to whistle straight through the box, remaining as light pulses, while other optical signals are pulled off and converted into electrical signals for onward transport to local equipment. This sounds similar to the switches being developed by Ilotron Ltd., which also use tunable lasers (see Corvis Gets Some Competition).

The big difference may be scale. Cinta talks about its switch architecture supporting as many as 4,096 ports and handling bandwidths ranging from OC48 (2.5 Gbit/s) to OC768 (40 Gbit/s).

Mind you, talk’s cheap, and counting the number of ports isn’t a satisfactory way of stating the size of this type of switch. It’s better to give the number of fibers that can be supported, and that’s not a figure that Cinta gives out. If it was basing the number of ports on a 160-wavelength DWDM system, then the number of fibers would be around two dozen -- about four times the capacity of Corvis’s switch.

The company is also intentionally vague about the technology it uses in its optical switch, saying only that it is "opto-mechanical." Company executives add that the optical switching technology is largely irrelevant beacuse it could be changed at any time, and they seem to imply that it will be. "MEMS are just a subsystem; it's not a competitive technology," says Vaughan. The Cinta switch does not currently use MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems), but Vaughan says the company may chose them in the future.

The company is well-funded and backed by some big names. It has raised a total of more than $64 million from investors, including ADC Telecommunications Inc. (Nasdaq: ADCT), Corning Inc. (NYSE: GLW), Enron Corp. (NYSE: ENE), Battery Ventures, and Sequoia Capital. The board includes Seqouia’s Michael Goguen, who's funded four companies that have been acquired by Cisco. Serial entrepreneur Wu-Fu Chen (see Wu-Fu Chen ) is also on the board.

-- R. Scott Raynovich, executive editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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