What's Kooking at Kirana?
Considering the links to Tachion, with its vocal community of followers, Kirana has performed a minor miracle in keeping itself out of the limelight for the past couple years. We think it's high time the company spilled the beans.
But while things are moving up a gear at Kirana -- the company is reportedly hiring new staff -- an official product launch isn't on the cards for another six months or so, according to Sharma. "Our first product is nearly ready," he says. "We expect to launch it at Supercomm."
So, what is Kirana up to? "We have not yet launched the company, so I feel uncomfortable talking about the product," says Sharma. The blurb on Kirana's Website simply refers to an "advanced optical solution." Slightly more helpful is the information from investors Bessemer Venture Partners and Columbia Capital, which say the company is "developing switching solutions for all-optical networks."
Sharma insists that Kirana is not another Tachion, despite the fact that it was founded by two Tachion veterans. His co-founder is Sunil Malhotra, Tachion's former VP of software development, who holds the same position with Kirana.
The rest of Kirana's executive team hails from a range of other optical companies, however. It includes chief scientist and VP of network architecture Adel Saleh, who was previously VP and chief network architect at Corvis Corp. (Nasdaq: CORV); and CTO N.V. Srinivasan, a Bell Labs old timer, who directed the MONET project to build the first ever all-optical network.
These appointments add to the evidence that Kirana is developing something in the all-optical line -- although it hasn't said exactly what. (Tachion's product was quite different -- an Internet offload platform -- see Another Tack for Tachion).
Reading between the lines of a presentation given by Adel Saleh at last year's OFC conference, it appears that Kirana is developing a wavelength-selective, all-optical transport switch that works in concert with reconfigurable all-optical add/drop multiplexers (ROADMs). (A wavelength-selective switch is one that can interconnect individual wavelengths, as opposed to switching bunches of wavelengths together.)
Saleh's presentation suggests that a bunch of smaller all-optical switches can operate as a larger, geographically distributed optical switch, providing a cost-effective alternative to building monster all-optical switches.
The idea of integrating all-optical switching and transport isn't new by any means. Indeed, most vendors, including Corvis and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE), now believe this is the simplest solution for all-optical networks, because the switches only need to deal with add/drop traffic (see Siemens Shifts Switch Strategy).
"This is a fair description [of our strategy]," says Sharma, "The presentation basically shows how all-optical transport can reduce costs in the network." He acknowledges that all-optical switching is part of Kirana's product plans, but emphasizes that it is not the only or even the main part.
Kirana is probably building its own ROADMs as well, judging by the fact that it was seen hobnobbing with representatives from tunable laser vendor Iolon Inc. at a show last fall. Using tunable lasers enables a much simpler architecture for ROADMs, since they can be used to add any channel to the network regardless of its wavelength (see Tunable Lasers Revisited).
Of course, there is still a question over whether Kirana can stay the course. Its first and only round of funding was $20 million in January 2001. "We're still living off [the first round]," says Sharma, but he adds that, since the company only has 40 people, its burn rate is very low. The company is currently trying to raise a second round of $30 million. And the fact that it is hiring suggests a great deal of confidence.
— Pauline Rigby, Senior Editor, Light Reading