Coriolis Cruises Along
OptiFlow is Coriolis's optical edge switch family for metro access markets. Its boxes combine DWDM, Sonet, and some Layer 2 or Layer 3 data intelligence in one package (see Coriolis). The upgrade gives the five boxes in the OptiFlow family PDH/SDH support for ring and tributary interfaces. In English, that means each box can now aggregate Gigabit Ethernet, TDM (time-division multiplexing), and other data traffic across European and Asian carrier networks (see Coriolis Demos Optiflow).
The box has the flexibility in data and optical switching features that is coveted by many carriers right now. But Coriolis also has many competitors, and drawing buyers to a small startup remains a challenge.
Coriolis "is poised for success, but they are at the end of their startup lifecycle," says Michael Kennedy, managing partner at Network Strategy Partners LLC. "It's do-or-die time."
Giving itself more international appeal is a smart move for Coriolis, analysts say. "Carriers in Asia have more freedom to go with IP transport products, because those carriers aren't as tied to legacy frame relay and ATM equipment," says Patricia Hatton, a senior analyst with RHK Inc..
The company has also given each of its boxes the ability to handle multipoint virtual local-area networks (VLANs) over Ethernet. VLANs occur when a computer network is connected over Ethernet through software instead of hardware, yet they behave as though they were physically hooked directly to one another. This feature is important because it lets service providers sell businesses the ability to connect multiple sites together on the same corporate intranet across the WAN.
But wait! There's more! Coriolis is also supporting Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) trunks for carriers that have deployed new MPLS backbones. And it's supporting Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) transport so it can work with legacy ATM backbones. Why? So it can hook into a service provider's core network, regardless of what kind of network it is, and deliver Ethernet services to that service provider's customers.
"What carriers really like is to be able to provide VLANs over Ethernet, as well as traditional private line services, without having to build an overlay network alongside their Sonet networks just to handle data," says Greg Wortman, VP of marketing for Coriolis.
Coriolis says it has an advantage over competitors -- including Nortel Networks Corp.'s (NYSE/Toronto: NT) OPTera Metro 3500 -- because it maps, or matches up, Ethernet traffic into a Sonet frame in 0.5-Mbit/s increments, as opposed to the 1.544-Mbit/s allowed by VT1.5 or 51.84-Mbit/s allowed by STS1. This allows the service provider to give its customers bandwidth in 1-Mbit increments without wasting or stranding any unused network capacity.
At least from the technology perspective, Coriolis seems to be saying and doing all the right things. "Everyone on the carrier side is certain that they want to roll out metro Ethernet services without messing up their traditional Sonet services," according to Network Strategy Partners' Kennedy. "They want to have their cake and eat it, too."
However, Coriolis is not in a class by itself. Kennedy says his company helped put out an RFP a year ago for a large inter-exchange carrier (IXC) that wanted to build a metro network and provide Internet Protocol (IP) and TDM services. The IXC got 35 responses from companies that all compete with Coriolis in one way or another.
"For any startup the challenge is one of proving your viability to large carriers," says RHK's Hatton. "Carriers are nervous about buying from startup vendors."
In its corner, Coriolis has two customers that are deploying its gear. Alaskan CLEC General Communication Inc. (GCI) initially bought one OptiFlow 5000 box, which takes up one third of a central office 7-foot telco rack, and four OptiFlow 1020s, the CPE devices that are 3.5 inches high (see Alaskans Feel Coriolis Effect).
That deployment was larger than the one by Coriolis's other customer, Georgia-based Marietta FiberNet, says Wortman. "But the Marietta network has grown six or seven times since then."
Coriolis has raised $84 million in funding, with $32 million of that coming as recently as October 2001. The company has 100 employees.
— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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