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Optical/IP Networks

Interplanetary Blasts Off

A stealthy, well-funded company located in Malaysia and backed by a royal lineage of investors is diving into the core routing and switching market with a groundbreaking new product.

Interplanetary Networks, which is headquartered in the world-famous Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, is building a core networking box that will combine the functions of the terabit router and an optical switch, sources close to the company say.

Interplanetary Networks (no Website) still considers itself in stealth mode and will not comment on the product. But sources in Silicon Valley's venture capital community who looked at the company say the product is designed to meld the idea of transparent optical switching and high-speed routing so that high-priority traffic, such as video, could be passed through to the optical switch, creating a sort of two-lane control plane for the carrier core.

Sources say that Interplanetary was founded by Ku Sumaran, a reclusive engineer and Malaysian native. After earning his PhD in astrophysics from Stanford University, he worked at Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and the SETI Institute.

Sumaran is a descendent of a former Malaysian monarch, Kuteng Makaria, and is believed to be a billionaire. He used money from the royal family -- including some raised by the sale of several servants -- to fund the company, and thus no outside investors are involved. Some sources put the funding as high as $350 million.

It's widely believed that Interplanetary is using a 3D MEMS chip, supplied by a major Chinese vendor, as the technology basis for its optical switch. For the terabit router, Interplanetary is designing its own ASICs and the box is expected to exceed the capacity of Cisco Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: CSCO) CRS-1.

"I've heard it's pretty revolutionary -- they are going after a hybrid 'hollow-core/packet core' model," says one Silicon Valley VC, Sanford Chapstick, who requested anonymity. "And they claim it levitates. But personally, I think they are nuts."

Sources say the routing/switching product, which will be named the IPO9000, will have a total capacity of 500 Terabits and will be able to switch as many as 10,000 ports while at the same time streaming a multicast libary of Jackie Chan movies in MPEG-4 format.

The optical switch will include a video switching technology known as Video Tag Routing (VTR), which sounds impressive but actually doesn't mean a damn thing.

Interplanetary's CEO, Krishnamurti Bloviate, has a fat resumé. He has worked at Xros, Charlotte's Web, Tachion, Alidian, Metro-Optix, and Enron. Post-Enron, he worked for many years as a venture capitalist.

"Frankly, it's time to spend more money," said Bloviate, reached briefly for comment on an Australian golf course.

— The Staff, Light Reading

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