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October 25, 2011
Calient Technologies Inc. thinks the day of the all-optical switch has come, thanks to the massive expansion expected in data centers.
On Tuesday, the company is announcing the first major revisions to its C320 system. The X320 and C320, due to ship early in 2012, will be 7 rack units high (the FC320 took up three-quarters of a rack) and will consume 20 W total (versus the FC320's 400 W) while still sporting a 320x320 optical switching element. That's 20 W for all ports combined -- less than some chips consume, CEO Atiq Raza says.
Cost of the systems could be 80 percent lower than that of the C320, Raza says. Calient will target the switches at the data centers/WAN connection and at the links between big computing clusters within the data center.
Calient still plans to offer modular pieces of its technology to fit into other companies' systems, a strategy expressed last year by former CEO Greg Koss. (Koss is still with the company, in charge of the product side.)
By the way, you might have noticed us namedropping Atiq Raza, the dotcom-era venture capitalist and founder of Raza Microelectronics (acquired by NetLogic Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: NETL) which is being acquired by Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM)). Raza became Calient's CEO about a year ago and helped raise a US$19.4 million round to fund this data-center drive. The funding isn't done, either; Raza says Calient will need another round "to help with the cash flow" based on projected demand for the product.
Why this matters
Could the age of the massive all-optical switch -- which created so much noise circa 2000 -- finally be arriving? Calient has been making a living selling the boxes for core networks and the termination points of overseas links, but it's only a $5 million market, Raza estimates.
If it happens, a long-needed upgrade of the platform will be crucial. Telco customers accepted the FC320's size and cost, but that didn't play with the data center crowd. "They pounded the table and said, 'Guys, this needs to be modernized,'" Raza says.
Raza claims the massive shrinking of the FC320 into smaller, less power-hungry versions will create a product without peer. Glimmerglass and Polatis Inc. will probably have something to say about that.
Bits about Calient, all-optical switching and Raza.
A Monster All-Optical Switch
Calient Gets Ambitious With Optical Switching
RMI's Long Strange Trip
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading
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