Silkroad Twists and Turns

Silkroad's failure to live up to its own billing is making people gun-shy. "I don't think [Silkroad] technology will be used in live networks for at least another 12 to 18 months," says an early investor in Silkroad, who requested anonymity. Having to wait a long time to see whether Silkroad can deliver might deter potential investors looking for quick returns.

Silkroad's bizarre marketing message hasn't helped matters. It's tried to blind people with science, quoting the theoretical physics that lie behind its invention rather than spelling out the way its technology works. It's wanted to keep that secret while its patents are still pending. However, its smoke screen has been so effective that many people have gone away puzzled, suspecting that Silkroad is either a bunch of crooks or a bunch of cranks. Others point out that the equations and formulae used in Silkroad's presentations don't actually add up. One person who was given their pitch describes it as 'amateur science.'

This doesn't mean that Silkroad's RSC technology won't be worth the wait -- if it can solve its funding woes and deliver it.

Silkroad claims that RSC will carry terabits of traffic a second over a single strand of fiber in a much simpler way than current DWDM (dense wave division multiplexing) developments. According to the vendor, it enables different streams of traffic to be carried over one huge bandwidth channel rather than over scores of smaller channels, which is the way that DWDM tackles the problem. This eliminates the need for scores of lasers, filters and so on, slashing costs.

And that's just for starters. Silkroad says its technology also extends the distance over which light can be transmitted, eliminating expensive electrical regeneration of signals. In addition, it's supposed to provide a simple way of splitting off streams of traffic at intermediate stations, performing a similar function to an optical add-drop multiplexer, at a fraction of the cost.

For now, however, one thing is certain: Silkroad's problems have caused a staff exodus. "We have been getting a number of resumes from them," says Dawn Hogh, vice president of marketing at Kestrel Solutions Inc. (http://www.kestrelsolutions.com), which is developing products based on another another bandwidth boosting scheme called FDM (frequency division multiplexing; seeBattle Begins Between FDM Twins).

- by Peter Heywood, international editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com
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