Cratos Networks Tips Its Hand
Cratos Networks, the startup founded by networking wiz Sanjeev Newarikar and bankrolled by Comstellar Technologies Inc. VC and entrepreneur Raj Singh, is in the hunt for a piece of the metropolitan optical market.
The company plans to market a multiservice switching platform that promises to do a little bit of everything, including handling voice and data traffic, according to Newarikar.
Newarikar says the products will have the features available in the Core Director from Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), as well as the Sonet add-drop multiplexing functions available in the 15454 from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). It will also handle some edge routing functions for data traffic, like the SmartEdge product from Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK).
Adding an interesting spin to the story, Newarikar said the product will also support dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) and will be designed for expansion into the long-haul optical networking market, using DWDM to transport voice and data over long distances.
“Our first target is the metro market,” says Newarikar. “It’s easier to start small and scale large. The technology we are using isn’t mature enough for the long-haul market yet. But we’ll have something later in the year.”
The company is the latest in a complex and expanding family tree, all orginating from Fiberlane, the most valuable startup that never was. Fiberlane was split into three companies, Cerent, Siara, and Cyras, all of which eventually generated hot products that now respectively reside at Cisco, Redback Networks, and Ciena.
The main question about Cratos: Is there room for another?
Raj Singh apparently thinks so. Comstellar Technologies, a venture capital firm headed by Singh, one of Fiberlane’s founders, has bankrolled Cratos since April 2000, dishing out $8 million in its initial round and another $2 million or so in bridge loans (see Life-Long Incubator Launched).
Newarikar’s career history began in the early 1990s at Cisco. He later went to Fiberlane and then Ascend Communications (before Lucent Technologies Inc. [NYSE: LU] acquired the company in 1999), where he worked on multiprotocol label switching (MPLS).
According to Newarikar, the startup is already testing a prototype in its lab. The first product is expected to launch this summer.
In a little less than a year, Newarikar has hired 72 employees, most of whom are engineers. He expects that number to grow to at least 100 in the next month.
Newarikar has refused to publicly name several top executives, saying he fears they could be poached. These include a VP of engineering, whom he says comes from Unisphere Solutions Inc. (Nasdaq: UNSP), and a director of hardware from Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT). He even refuses to give out the exact location of a special development facility based outside of Boston, where he claims to have “the best optical minds” assembled.
Talent-hungry competing startups may not be the only threat on Cratos’s radar screen, as the company will also have to battle the stormy market conditions and proliferation of optical networking startups addressing the same metropolitan market.
-- Marguerite Reardon, senior editor, Light Reading, http://www.lightreading.com