Mintera Freshens Up Long-Haul
Of course, nothing would benefit the startup more than if every service provider suddenly started tearing out their current 10-Gbit/s long-haul transport networks and installing 40-Gbit/s systems. But Mintera knows it can't survive on that kind of vision just yet.
So it's designed its 40-Gbit/s transport system to give carriers a gentle nudge toward tomorrow's networks (see Mintera Ships 40-Gig). "You can think of our product as an add-on to existing infrastructure," says Mintera founder Menachem Abraham. "Our approach to the market does not require a whole architectural change."
The company says that, based on its research, 40-Gbit/s systems can use the same transmission links as 10-Gbit/s systems -- the same transmission fiber, the same optical multiplexers and demultiplexers, the same optical amplifiers, and the same in-line dispersion compensators. Mintera even claims that it can mix 10-Gbit/s and 40-Gbit/s Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) channels in the same system.
The startup hopes carriers will first use its system, the MI40000, to add 40-Gbit/s waves to their existing 10-Gbit/s systems. The stackable box is 17 inches wide, 7 inches tall, and 20 inches deep.
Again, it's important to note that Mintera isn't (outwardly) pushing entire 40-Gbit/s networks just yet -- just point-to-point links. Not mesh networks. Not big rings. Not yet.
For a point-to-point solution, Mintera uses ETDM (electronic time division multiplexing) to take lower-speed Sonet channels (specifically, four 10-Gbit/s channels) and mux them into a 40-Gbit/s electronic channel. Then it would send the whole caboodle optically to another Mintera box at the end of the link. So the MI40000 can support several 10-Gbit/s channels or an individual 40-Gbit/s channel, should the carrier happen to have a 40-Gbit/s router interface in its network.
There is some smarts to encouraging carriers to add capacity, where needed, without having to tear out legacy gear. "They've figured out how to stay alive until 40 Gbit/s really catches on," says Michael Howard, Principal Analyst at Infonetics Research Inc.
It's true that 10 Gbit/s is the sweet spot today for carriers, says Scott Clavenna, chief analyst at Heavy Reading. "But if Mintera can meet the price points and operational simplicity of 10 Gig, then it is cheaper to transport one wavelength of 40 Gig than it is to send four 10-Gig waves."
Mintera has also added some relatively inexpensive test and measurement capabilities. Its test modules occupy four slots in the MI40000 chassis to test all manner of link performance and integrity.
Mintera is pushing its system for other applications as well, such as lighting up dark fiber to connect carrier central offices, in lieu of using a metro WDM system. In that application, Mintera boasts that its system can handle up to five 40-Gbit/s wavelengths -- 200 Gbit/s in all -- for distances up to 200km without external amplification.
These baby steps come in great contrast to the company's game plan in 2002, when it was intent on rewriting the record book for 40-Gbit/s transmission distances (see Mintera Sets Record Distance at 40G and Mintera Sets Transport Record Again). "There was probably a shift in the way they were trying to be perceived," says Probe Research Inc. senior analyst Maria Zeppetella.
However, it may just be that Mintera is trying to avoid the fate of other 40-Gig vendors by keeping itself small and its goals reasonable (see Ex-PhotonEx? and Ceyba Shuts Down). After all, the company burns about $500,000 a month, has only raised $26 million to date, and keeps only about 35 on staff, Abraham says.
So far, the company has one purchase order from an overseas carrier for research purposes and another purchase order for some network design/consulting work.
"My message here is that we are a sane bunch of people," says Abraham.
— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading