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Sonet: Prêt-A-Porter

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
5/22/2000

MIAMI, FL---Sonet may not be the most fashionable technology heading down the start-up runway this spring, but Mayan Networks Inc. http://www.mayannetworks.com says fashionable or not it's what service providers want and need. The company officially launched its Sonet access device for metropolitan networks, the Unifier SMX, today at the Association for Local Telecommunications Services show in Miami.

"Providers may talk about Gigabit Ethernet and WDM," says Daniel J. Gatti, president and CEO of Mayan. "But carriers are slow to adopt new technology. If you look at what they are actually using in their networks, you'll see they are more conservative about what they deploy."

If history is any indication, Mayan is taking the right tack. Last year, Siara Systems, also developing a Sonet access product for the metropolitan network, was bought by Redback Networks Inc. http://www.redback.com for a whopping $4 billion. Amazing considering the company didn't have a product when the deal was announced in November and isn't expected to have one until later this year (see Redback’s Siara Box Enters Trials ).

Last August, Cerent, a Sonet long-haul network vendor, was bought by Cisco Systems Inc. http://www.cisco.com for $7 billion. Not too shabby considering Cerent only made about $100 million in 1999. The deal has turned out well for Cisco, since almost all of the company's profits in optical networking in the third quarter of 2000 reportedly came from products originating from Cerent (see Cisco Touts Optical Upside In Q3 Results). The future looks bright for Cerent with earnings expected to leap to about $1 billion in 2000.

Mayan claims that a combination of factors differentiates the Unifier SMX from its competitors' products. First, it grooms and aggregates multiservice data and voice onto Sonet rings or point-to-point connections increasing bandwidth utilization for data traffic from 20% to 80%, says the vendor.

Secondly, the device supports standards and Sonet features to ensure interoperability with other vendors' add drop multiplexers (ADM) at the physical, signaling, and control level. It claims these features allow the Unifier SMX to act as an ADM itself or also issue instructions to equipment from other vendors in order for them to fulfill the same functions.

"Providers are buying ADMs already," says Gatti. "Why not buy one with intelligence." Thirdly, Mayan has also designed the Unifier SMX with logical components such as device intelligence and routing code which are kept separate from physical interface modules. This makes device upgrades easier and reduces network disruption and down-time, says the vendor.

Where's the competition? (see Sonet Goes POP) Mayan's biggest threat could come from Cyras Systems http://www.cyras.com, which has its roots in a company once called Fiberlane. The company, started by Raj Singh, entrepreneur turned VC, was broken up into three entities: Cyras, Siara, and Cerent (see Fiberlane Founder Finds Another Startup.

Word on the street is that Cyras is even hotter than its two step-siblings, which, as stated above, were both sold for a combined total of $11 billion last year. And rumors have surfaced that engineers from Cerent have been working for Cyras to design a high performance, high density, small footprint device due out later this summer.

But Mayan claims that it will have first mover advantage. Shipments of the Unifier SMX are scheduled to begin in June.

"Others may say they compete with us," says Gatti, "but we have solutions that are ready to deploy today."

by Marguerite Reardon, senior editor, Light Reading

http://www.lightreading.com

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