Infinera Gets Corvis (Sort Of)
Broadwing Corp. (Nasdaq: BWNG), the U.S. carrier acquired by a sinking Corvis in 2003, today announced it's chosen Infinera's DTN, a long-haul WDM system, for future optical buildouts.
Moreover, Corvis's all-optical switch has landed in Infinera's hands. Infinera is taking over Corvis's old product, the CorWave OCS switch, just to maintain the installed base for Broadwing -- and is picking up Corvis patents including the all-optical switch.
"We licensed the intellectual property rights to it," says Dave Welch, Infinera chief strategy officer. He stresses, though, that Infinera doesn't plan to revive CorWave. Rather, Broadwing suggested this maintenance deal as an adjustment to its purchase of Infinera DTNs.
Broadwing has been trying to sell the product line for more than a year. (See Broadwing to Sell Corvis Business.) As part of the deal -- terms of which weren't disclosed -- Infinera picked up 40 Broadwing employees located in Columbia, Md.
Irony abounds. For those who don't remember, Corvis was the bubble-era company preaching all-optical switching for then plentiful long-haul projects. Infinera is the opposite: The company says its strength lies in avoiding all-optical switching, instead providing a compact box that switches traffic after converting it to electrical form, then back to optical. (See Infinera Declares WDM War.)
Infinera, which has collected quite a few customers in recent months, isn't using this win to rub it in against all-optical switching. Well, not any more than usual, anyway.
"Broadwing historically has been aggressive pursuing technology," Welch says. "They're not going to let a religious vision taint [a decision on] what's correct for them to deploy."
Infinera isn't planning any Corvis revival. The plan is to sell linecards and service only to Broadwing, Welch says, with future Broadwing buildouts relying on Infinera's DTN instead.
Separately, Infinera has licensed from Broadwing some of Corvis's Raman amplification technology, which is useful for linking long spans in a network. "I could see that adding some Raman to Infinera gets them longer spans with fewer intermediate inline EDFA [erbium-doped fiber amplifier] sites, which can reduce network cost," says Scott Clavenna, chief analyst with Heavy Reading.
To many, Corvis was the pinnacle of bubble-era excess. The company, founded by Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) founder David Huber, went public in 2000 and rose to a valuation of $37 billion despite having no revenues. (See Avici and Corvis Make Stunning Debuts, Corvis Dorsal Deal: A Huber Spin-In?, A Survey of the Corvis Food Chain, and The David Huber Game.)
Along the way, Huber amassed some notable conflicts of interest, as his venture firm was investing in Corvis's component suppliers. Later, Corvis acquired undersea-optics firm Dorsal, in which Corvis and Huber both held stakes.
With the bubble deflating, large carriers canceled ambitious optical plans, leaving Corvis starving in the dust. Corvis eventually took over Broadwing, its largest customer, installing Huber as CEO. Huber stepped down in February 2006, causing Broadwing's stock to soar. (See Corvis & Broadwing: Together At Last and Broadwing Soars as Huber Goes.)
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading