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Optical/IP

Luminous Still Twinkles

The remains of Luminous Networks could have a wider influence than expected, as it turns out two companies will be using the defunct startup's Resilient Packet Ring Technology technology.

As reported by Light Reading, Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN) recently picked up Luminous's intellectual property, formally announcing the move yesterday. (See Adtran Buys Luminous Embers and Adtran Confirms Luminous Buy.) But it turns out Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has a piece of Luminous as well.

That's the result of a deal struck by Scientific-Atlanta Inc. , which is now owned by Cisco. Back in the primordial days of Light Reading, Sci-Atlanta signed an OEM agreement to sell Luminous boxes under the Prisma IP name. (See Scientific-Atlanta Invests $10M in Luminous.) Should Luminous go under, the contract said, Sci-Atlanta would have the right to license the intellectual property, royalty-free, and to keep building Prisma IPs in perpetuity, says Mark Palazzo, vice president of Scientific-Atlanta's transport and access division.

With Luminous announcing its demise last Christmas, Palazzo says Sci-Atlanta invoked its powers on Jan. 24, grabbing not only the free license but also the "vast majority" of the physical-world Luminous: inventory, test equipment, all that stuff. (See Luminous Loses Its Luster.)

Scientific-Atlanta did not acquire the Luminous patent portfolio, however -- that's now in the hands of Adtran. But the license allows Sci-Atlanta to continue building Prisma IP, which it intends to do. The company is also picking up some of Luminous's customers, Palazzo says.

Adtran, meanwhile, had decided last year to start including RPR with its access products and was moving into multiservice aggregation anyway, as noted by its product announcement last week. (See Adtran Touts Total Access.)

Then Luminous came on the block, giving Adtran an RPR shortcut. For "an inconsequential amount of money, to us," Adtran got to "acquire a technology we were going to develop anyway," says Jay Wilson, vice president of product marketing for Adtran's carrier networking division.

Both companies intend to meld the Luminous technology into their products.

Adtran sees a use for transport ring technology in the access network -- not at the outer fringes near the customer, but in a "second-mile aggregation" role, Wilson says. "There's a lot of logic in using RPR for that application."

For Scientific-Atlanta, the effect could be particularly dramatic. Cisco's ONS 15454, which includes Cisco-developed RPR capabilities, was crafted with a Sonet/SDH emphasis. Luminous tackled RPR with more of an Ethernet approach, and that could be useful, considering Cisco is altering its optical plans to focus more on packet-based networks. (See Cisco Swaps Opto Jobs and Cisco Taps Cerent Vet.)

"We've already begun the process of working with the Cisco optical transport group and looking at how we can engineer our product roadmaps," Palazzo says. "You'll see the platforms merge together."

The Luminous employees probably got little money, if any, out of the sales. But some of them did get jobs. Adtran picked up some Luminous engineers -- "on the order of a dozen, and less than two dozen," Wilson says. Scientific-Atlanta picked up about 12 Luminous employees in California and hired a "small number" of operations people as contractors, says Palazzo.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

jshuler 12/5/2012 | 3:12:47 PM
re: Luminous Still Twinkles Luminous was the first multiservice RPR - Cisco was a router interface, Nortel for Ethernet data only over SONET. This vision was picked up by others, and in at least one case a startup has become more successful than Luminous ever was by virtue of focusing on larger (10G) rather than smaller (access) platforms, and (earlier) on SONET/SDH rather than Ethernet as the physical layer.

It is great to see that many of the leading architects and engineers behind the Luminous platform have landed steady jobs at Cisco/S-A and Adtran.
alchemy 12/5/2012 | 3:59:11 AM
re: Luminous Still Twinkles A Cisco ASIC designer chaired the IEEE 802 RPR committee. Cisco already has their own RPR technology. For example, you can get an OC-48 RPR interface for their 10720 router. What use could Cisco possibly make of Luminous technology?
cellified 12/5/2012 | 3:59:10 AM
re: Luminous Still Twinkles Whoa, that headline kind of looks like "Luminous Sells Twinkies."

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:58:42 AM
re: Luminous Still Twinkles Well, as the story says, Cisco ended up with Luminous tech indirectly; Scientific-Atlanta was already using it.

Cisco's initial RPR wasn't the same as the 'standard' RPR -- that's an old, old tale worth looking up. Cisco ended up being standards-compliant in the end, but hey, they're saying there's some useful stuff in Luminous's Ethernet-centric approach.
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