Akara to Challenge Optera?

Akara Corp., a Canadian equipment startup, is building a box that may supplant metro DWDM (dense wavelength-division multiplexing) systems in some applications. Interestingly, Akara was founded by some of the same folks who helped Cambrian Systems (acquired by Nortel Networks Corp. [NYSE/Toronto: NT] in late 1998) define the metro DWDM market with its Optera product.

"We knew what was missing from the first metro DWDM product, and we thought about that while we were starting Akara," says Akara co-founder Solomon Wong.

What Akara's product purports to do is help meter, aggregate, and manage data traffic bound for the network's core. Its VCR-sized box sits at customer locations -- medium to large businesses -- and helps service providers use their networks more efficiently while helping companies understand exactly what they're paying for and how much bandwidth they're using.

It's fair to say Akara's box is not a switch, a router, or a Sonet multiplexer. Wong describes it as an "optical access product," or something of a digital loop carrier, a device that links services from carrier fiber to subscriber copper for higher bandwidth applications.

Whatever it's called, the tricky bit is that it both competes with and complements metro DWDM boxes, depending on the network in which it is installed. In networks of fewer than five nodes, Akara's box could be used in place of a metro DWDM system, Wong says. In larger networks, Akara's box is used to provide supplemental transport features by plugging into an existing DWDM system. In those situations, Akara says, its gear saves on DWDM costs by allowing carriers to add services -- such as remote storage -- to a wavelength that isn't being fully used up.

Akara's been funded with $17 million by Battery Ventures and Greylock, but the VCs aren't getting the whole pie. Akara has set aside more than 25 percent of its shares for employees, according to a report by the Ottawa Citizen.

Joining Wong at Akara are CEO Edward Ogonek, a former Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA: Paris: CGEP:PA) executive, and co-founders Stephen Adolph and Mark Wacyk, who both hail from Nortel.

Akara says its product will go into customer trials during the first quarter of next year.

-- Phil Harvey, senior editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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