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Optical/IP

OMM Gets a Breather

After months of misery, OMM Inc. finally has some good news to report.

The company says its optical switching subsystems have passed the demanding environmental and reliability tests outlined in the Telcordia Technologies Inc. specifications (see OMM Passes Telcordia Standard). These tests are designed to show that gear can be stored, transported, and deployed in less than perfect environmental conditions, without any degradation in performance.

It's an important milestone for OMM, of course, and a vital part of the product development process. "Our customers are telling us that their customers will not buy products from them unless they are fully Telcordia compliant," says Conrad Burke, OMM's VP of sales and marketing.

But the significance of the announcement goes deeper. As the first company to gain Telcordia qualification for micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) switches -- those based on arrays of tiny tilting mirrors -- OMM is giving a boost to all the players in that sector of the industry.

Despite the fact that MEMS is widely used in other industries, telecom observers have remained skeptical that it would have the carrier-class reliability needed for optical networks. MEMS contains moving parts, which could jam, wear out, or become damaged in earthquakes, making them intrinsically unreliable, they say.

As the biggest supplier of MEMS-based switches, OMM has borne the brunt of rumors that the tiny mirrors stick and fail in the field. For the record, Light Reading has not been able to substantiate those rumors in the past. With its announcement today, OMM hopes to "finally put to bed any question or doubt about the reliability of MEMS in optical switching."

OMM claims that its 2D switch arrays -- the switch that it's shipping to the majority of its customers -- have passed Telcordia GR-1073-CORE, which gives specifications for optical switches; GR-1221-CORE, which concerns passive components; and GR-468-CORE, which covers active components such as lasers and detectors.

In fact, OMM contends that in some cases it's actually exceeded the requirements. "We've got devices that we've switched 19 million times without failure," Burke says. "To put that into context, 10 million cycles at a rate of one on/off per minute would take 20 years."

Here's another statistic: Each individual mirror in one of OMM's switch arrays has a so-called FIT rate (the number of failures in a billion hours of operation) of 60, and an entire 8x8 module has a FIT rate of about 600, says Burke. For comparison, a connector has a FIT rate of about 200 and a pump laser about 1000.

The reliability qualification is timely too. "Last year, customers didn't ask too many questions about reliability, because components were in such short supply," John Midgely, CEO of Lightwave Microsystems Corp. told Light Reading last week. This year there's a lot more choice, and reliability is at the forefront again, he says. That comment rings as true for the crowded MEMS-based components market as it does for AWGs (arrayed waveguide gratings -- Lightwave's main product).

On the minus side of things, only the 2D switch subsystems are fully qualified. These contain mirrors that flap around in one direction only, and are best suited for making small switches. The 3D MEMS that OMM is working on for its larger switches will take more time to test. That's partly because they were developed later, and partly because they are build into a system-level replacement box that has to pass NEBS specifications in addition to Telcordia, says Burke.

Trouble is, even this dose of good news may not be enough to keep the company afloat. OMM says it has shipped switches to 28 paying customers, and has reached field trial stage with three of these. Now, the company has to keep its fingers crossed in the hope that its customers will manage to sell a decent number of optical switches (see Components, Anyone?). Only then will revenues start to ramp significantly. The sales cycle can take up to a couple of years, which is a long time to keep a company in a holding pattern.

It's hard to tell whether OMM will endure. Burke says that the company has enough cash to last until the end of the year. He also noted that it had received further, unpublicized investment from "strategic partners," public companies that don't want their names bandied about. It wasn't clear if the investment came from new partners, or from the existing ones, which include Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE). (In other words, did the existing investors step in to prevent disaster?)

Burke also noted that OMM had cut its burn rate significantly by laying off another 70 of its staff about a week ago. That brings the total head count at the company to about 320, and total job cuts to 150.

— Pauline Rigby, Senior Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.com
manoflalambda 12/4/2012 | 8:05:28 PM
re: OMM Gets a Breather Anyone familiar with the Telcordia OXC spec care to comment on where it is different or more specific than the standard NEBS Level 1,2,3 tests usually used for OEO switches.

Salute,
Manoflalambda

ps Lucent's LambdaRouter is certified up to and through NEBS level 3 for all areas (heat, shock, earthquake, ESD, EMI etc etc... ad nauseum)
BASSWOOD 12/4/2012 | 8:05:24 PM
re: OMM Gets a Breather Who can give me a clue that where those 2D MEMS
pixies' gone? Using a MEMS component in the Metro sounds not good.
basil 12/4/2012 | 8:05:23 PM
re: OMM Gets a Breather I find the careful wording of the press release interesting:

"Photonic switching subsystems", rather than optical switch components.

"conform to applicable environmental and reliability standards in Telcordia GR-1073-CORE, GR-1221-CORE and GR-468-CORE."

It will be interesting to see which standards they have considered to be applicable, as potential customers may not agree.
manoflalambda 12/4/2012 | 8:05:22 PM
re: OMM Gets a Breather "conform to applicable environmental and reliability standards in Telcordia GR-1073-CORE, GR-1221-CORE and GR-468-CORE."

Duh,

These are various sub-system reqts --

GR-468-CORE GENERIC RELIABILITY ASSURANCE REQUIREMENTS FOR OPTOELECTRONIC DEVICES USED IN
TELECOMMUNICATIONS EQUIPMENT, A MODULE OF RQGR, FR796

GR-1073-CORE Generic Requirements for Singlemode Fiber Optic Switches

GR-1221-CORE Generic Requirements Assurance Requirements for Passive Optical Components

I was wondering whether they met the new GR-3009-CORE for Optical Cross-Connects.

Nothing but routine testing here...

Salute,
Manoflalambda
jssreenath 12/4/2012 | 8:05:17 PM
re: OMM Gets a Breather "After months of misery, OMM Inc. finally has some good news to report."

and

"Trouble is, even this dose of good news may not be enough to keep the company afloat."

and
"It's hard to tell whether OMM will endure."

All this and the company is #1 on the top private company list.

The list is crap.
Peter Heywood 12/4/2012 | 8:05:14 PM
re: OMM Gets a Breather Yes...we are late revising the Top 10 List. We will do it soon...

Peter
laserboss 12/4/2012 | 8:05:02 PM
re: OMM Gets a Breather I wonder if the testing was done by an Independent test house? However, it is big step forward....what happened to Mirrors during Vibration and drop test?
manoflalambda 12/4/2012 | 8:04:55 PM
re: OMM Gets a Breather A lot of MEMs mirrors are of such low mass that they don't do much of anything during vibration and drop tests.... fiber arrays though, there you have to be careful.

Salute,
Manoflalambda
redface 12/4/2012 | 8:04:52 PM
re: OMM Gets a Breather "I wonder if the testing was done by an Independent test house? However, it is big step forward....what happened to Mirrors during Vibration and drop test?"

Most reliability testing were done in house. I guess OMM were not sure whether it will pass or fail, so they didn't go to an independent test house to do it. This time, it happens to pass after doing testing for probably two years or more, so OMM announced it.

My knowledge of GR1221 is that you do not do testing while the device is going through vibration or drop test. The testing is done while the device is stationary.
laserboss 12/4/2012 | 8:04:32 PM
re: OMM Gets a Breather Thanks guys......""This time, it happens to pass after doing testing for probably two years or more, so OMM announced it.""

I think it is still a big job.....I wonder how long it will take to other MEMS switch co (JDSU, Corning, ONIX, Caliant) to pass Telecordia tests....
For fiber array, if they are using epoxy, I wonder how it affected the performance during 85/85 test? ANy comment.......
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