The times they are a tankin', so we've made adjustments. In fact, we've injected the list with lots of fresh blood. Much of last year's rookie squad has been embarrassed on the floor -- so it's time for most of them to ride the pine.
The new list also reflects an increased amount of feedback from the optical networking community itself. Preliminary lists were debuted at Light Reading-sponsored events – Opticon, and Lightspeed Europe – where the selections were vetted and criticized by conference attendees. Several changes resulted from these presentations.
The list was also affected by some last-minute news events. For example, Ocular Networks Inc. was set to debut in the Number 2 spot, until it was announced just a few weeks ago that it would be bought by Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) (see Tellabs Nabs Ocular). Though technically Ocular remains a private company until the deal closes, there didn't seem to be much point in naming a company that had already agreed to be acquired by a large public company.
What's different now? The entire market. The Top Ten list is no longer about blockbuster IPOs; it's about companies that have real-world technology, enough cash to survive, or perhaps have developed an effective point product that would make an attractive acquisition (see Ocular). For the most part, we've shunned science fiction for honest-to-gosh products.
Number one? Unisphere Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: UNSP). The steady spinoff of Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) has been carefully building revenues and customers for its edge router. Another top entry? Atrica Inc., an optical Ethernet play.
One big change since last spring, when our old, moldy list was launched: The MEMs market and demand for core optical switching technology has virtually dried up, which doesn't bode well for companies like OMM Inc. and Calient Networks Inc. They're off. Axsun Technologies Inc. still has plenty of cash but the buzz has waned. Caspian Networks? Well, word on the street is that the product is very ambitious and that it's time for them to stop talking and start delivering.
Luminous Networks Inc.? The management seems to have gone a little quiet, while the company's technology looks to be stuck in RPR Hell (see RPR: Deadlock Ahead?). We've replaced them with Atrica, which looks to have a cleaner plan for Metro Ethernet – namely, they're actually working with Ethernet.
As for Ellacoya Networks Inc.... We really don't want to talk about it.
So here it is:
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How are the companies selected? Light Reading’s formula for evaluation is now well-proven:
There aren’t many rules, but the ones we have are strictly enforced (except when we think there’s a good reason for breaking them).
Companies must be privately held [like, duh! – ed]. Public companies aren’t eligible, so don’t even try.
The optical networking industry is not a democracy — and neither is the Top Ten list. The editors of Light Reading make the final call on which companies make the cut, and our verdict is irrevocable. There is no higher court of appeal — not even the Florida Secretary of State.
For the same reason, there’s also no point sending multiple emails suggesting the same company. It’s annoying, ok?
The list is dedicated to optical networking systems and components players. Service providers are also eligible, although Light Reading is planning to launch a shiny new services site, with its very own services Top Ten list, some time soon.
There is no Rule #4.
To be included, companies must explain not only what their product does (the easy bit: it’s called “marketing”) but also how it does it (the hard part: it’s called “engineering”). This weeds out vendors that decline to explain their technology fundamentals from the get-go.
The technology disclosure rule is an important one, because it makes it less likely that Light Reading editors will end up looking foolish by honoring what we think is, say, a state-of-the-art all-optical switch that then turns out to be a PowerPoint slide of a state-of-the-art all-optical switch.
It also makes it harder for startups to test the market with a “marketing balloon” announcement, and then change their technology story later.
Disclosure: Neither Light Reading Inc. nor any of its editors owns equity, stock options, or warrants in any of the companies listed.