Movaz Sees 3D
The latest from this daredevil startup: At the show, it's planning to demo an alpha version of the module it will use in its optical crossconnect product, due later this year -- a module that's based on so-called 3D MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems).
Movaz announced the module, dubbed the integrated Wavelength Selective Switch (iWSS), today (see Movaz Debuts All-Optical Switch). It intends to show a 400x400 version at OFC, made with technology it owns through the ten-year agreement it signed last year with The BF Goodrich Company (NYSE: GR) (see Movaz on the Move).
This takes real cojones. For one thing, carriers right now are about as interested in optical switching as they are in gaining third nostrils. For another, 3D is risky business these days.
"3D is still expensive and unproven," asserts Conrad Burke, senior VP of sales and marketing at OMM Inc., a maker of MEMS components.
At issue is the MEMS technique of using tiny tilting mirrors to guide light through a switch. In 3D MEMS, at least until recently, the approach involved setting up rows of mirrors to move in multiple planes, requiring several subparts that are difficult to design and manufacture efficiently.
Worse, early 3D MEMS switches reportedly suffer from very bad crosstalk -- signal interference that results as the mirrors move from one position to the next. This is reportedly what pulled down development of the Xros switch at Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), an effort that was finally ditched recently (see Nortel Shuts Optical Switch Effort).
For these reasons, 3D MEMS is seen by many as a shaky proposition. Several components companies, including OMM and startup Umachines Inc., say so-called 2D MEMS, wherein mirrors are moving along only one plane, is superior: It's faster, simpler, easier to manufacture, and still perfectly suited to the needs of carriers over the next couple of years.
Movaz thinks differently. By simplifying the design, it hopes to avoid the difficulties Nortel faced with Xros. "Xros deployed three different devices. We must use one module to demux wavelengths from fiber, switch them, and mux them back into the fiber," says Bijan Khosravi, CEO of Movaz. Furthermore, he insists that the proprietary technique developed by Movaz and Goodrich, one which uses freespace optics to mux and demux wavelengths, eliminates crosstalk and other negative effects suffered by 3D MEMS of the past.
He's also confident his MEMS will be easy to make. "We knew the process to build was as important as the design itself," explains Khosravi. For this reason, he says, Movaz has undergone nine separate cycles of design, prototype, and manufacture with BF Goodrich to ensure the new switch will be producible.
Nor is Khosravi worried about relying so heavily on just one MEMS manufacturer. "Goodrich is so entrenched," he says. "They're a huge company."
The small circle of 3D MEMS suppliers may be growing: Earlier this week, Agere Systems (NYSE: AGR) unveiled 3D MEMS components (see Agere Ramps Up 3D MEMS). Transparent Networks Inc. just announced a very large 3D MEMS switch. And Integrated Micromachines Inc. (IMMI) is planning to unveil an 80x80-wavelength switch module based on 3D MEMS at OFC next week. As is the case with Movaz, it remains to be seen how well these emerging solutions overcome the obstacles that have hindered 3D MEMS up to now.
How will the new switch fit into the rest of Movaz's wares? As a high-end augmentation, says Khosravi. While the RAYstar, a 320-wavelength, electrically-based central office switch announced last month, is the company's flagship product, Movaz will fill specific requests for core networking with an all-optical switch based on the iWSS, which is set to debut later this year (see Movaz Makes Its Milestones).
"Our solution offers transport, switching, and control plane features," Khosravi says. He claims he's already got an international carrier and two RBOCs "anxiously waiting" to see the prototypes.
Movaz could use a high-profile carrier contract. While the startup has hit all delivery dates and milestones so far and closed a range of deals with small independent carriers worldwide, it's failed to produce a contract with a key player. What's more, an early defection by Genuity Inc. (Nasdaq: GENU) as a trial customer (reasons undisclosed) didn't help matters.
But, as ever, Khosravi remains undaunted. "We're moving out of the development phase we've been in for 18 months," he crows. "Now we want to grow our business and focus on the RBOCs."
The company has taken a major step in this direction: Within the next few weeks, it's set to announce its Telcordia Osmine certification, a key requisite for any RBOC deal.
Movaz also has a new president and COO, Guy Gill, cofounder and former CEO of Elastic Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: ELAS), who also had a long career at Nortel.
Gill is as enthused as Khosravi: "We have a great unified platform, with the economics to allow service providers to reduce their costs," he says.
Nerves of steel help, too.
— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.com For more information on OFC 2002, please visit: www.nottheofc.com