Storage/servers/generic IT

Optovia Claims Longest SANs

An optical amplifier startup claims it can double the distance of SAN traffic over wide-area DWDM (dense wavelength-division multiplexing) networks. If it proves out, the world's longest SANs may be in the offing.

Optovia Corp., based in Acton, Mass., with roughly 40 employees at present, says its new amplifiers carry Fibre Channel traffic over distances up to 200 kilometers, eliminating the cost and complexity of extra, intermediate amplifiers. (Bemused? Stay with us.)

Optovia, founded in 2002, develops optical transport subsystems for telecom and cable service providers. Also among its customers are firms that build systems for enterprises that have their own optical networks.

The number of companies interested in optical networking for SAN transport is growing, according to Niall Robinson, VP of marketing at Optovia. The need for compliance and more storage, as well as increased threats to data centers from hurricanes and other disasters, has brought a run on cheaper-than-ever dark fiber. "Synchronous storage distances are getting wider," Robinson asserts.

Optovia solves a key problem encountered by enterprises that have lit their own fiber -- how to avoid installing amplifiers to freshen Fibre Channel signals. Up to now, so-called mid-span amplifiers have typically been required every 80 kilometers or so, increasing costs and making networks more complicated.

While the amplification issue is optical and isn't unique to Fibre Channel traffic, growing demand for long-distance SANs has brought the need to the fore.

Optovia says its new amplifier, the SpanExpress Line System, available now for undisclosed prices to OEMs, uses a blend of Raman and EDFA (erbium doped fiber amplifier) technologies to boost optical signals and eliminate additional amplifiers. Optovia claims SpanExpress cuts the equipment needed for optical networks by 42 percent and reduces the mean time between repairs for optical networks to hours instead of days.

Optovia has a couple of optical transport gear OEMs that plan to use its amps. One, ADVA Optical Networking, has signed on, according to Optovia. The vendor confirms the selection, without saying exactly where the amplifiers will be used. DVA's DWDM gear is in the EMC Select Partner Program, however, which makes its support significant. Its optical customers include the Networking and Technical Services Group of the Catholic Health Systems of Buffalo, N.Y., and Ohio State University Medical Center. (See The Optical Side of Storage.) Ciena and Nortel, which compete with ADVA in this space, also appear on EMC's list of partners.

While these and other optical transport suppliers, like Cisco, have been linked to Optovia, Robinson hints that another big fish may come aboard soon. "We have multiple customers of our Hut-Skip Line System [existing amplifier equipment]. And one OEM we're working with to close this quarter... If that happens, we'll have a very large percentage of those selling into the SAN space."

At least one analyst says Optovia's approach is unique, compared with those of amplifier competitors like Avanex, Bookham, Furukawa, and JDSU. Scott Clavenna, chief analyst at Heavy Reading, hasn't seen anyone clear the 200km limit for SAN traffic.

There's a market for this, Clavenna says. "Now that we're seeing SAN extension requirements extend beyond 100 kilometers, a solution that doesn't require inline optical amplifiers out in the field will have lower capital and operational costs."

One company that uses lots of SAN transport gear recently acknowledged the market momentum. "Seventy-five percent of our networks are storage related," said Mark Smith, president of Centrepath Networks, which helps firms build private optical and storage networks, in a recent interview. (See SAN Extension.)

— Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • ADVA Optical Networking
  • Avanex Corp. (Nasdaq: AVNX)
  • Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN)
  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)
  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)
  • Furukawa America Inc.
  • JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU)
  • Nortel Networks Ltd.
  • Optovia Corp.

  • optblues 12/5/2012 | 4:05:04 AM
    re: Optovia Claims Longest SANs Bypass GFP MSPPs AND the RBOCs? I wonder what the price difference is between a managed Fibre Channel service and an Optovia ADVA version with leased fiber? Under 100km? Over 100km?

    oemarket_com 12/5/2012 | 4:05:00 AM
    re: Optovia Claims Longest SANs Seems that this is another try of Raman amplification for commercial applications.

    But is there anything new technically?

    ^Eagle^ 12/5/2012 | 4:04:54 AM
    re: Optovia Claims Longest SANs I predict that Optovia will be acquired in the next 12 -18 months.

    These are smart guys. They know that the application they have can be targeted by others in the optical space. JDSU, Avanex, others could make thier own "hut-skip" system. Other systems guys could as well.

    However, time to market will cause the other players to realize it may be less expensive to acquire than to develop.

    I can only guess at who would make such an acquisition: Cisco, ADVA, Nortel,... who else.

    Given the history of the management team... I would be very surprised if an acquisition did not happen in the next 12-24 months. The team there has done quite well in past by selling when market was in upswing... and NOT waiting until the market reached it's nadir. Qtera could have held out for an IPO.. but took the money when it was available and made a good return for investors and founders.

    Looking into the dna of the founders and others on the team... I predict an acquistion sometime soon.


    Note: also watch for others addressing this application space.
    ^Eagle^ 12/5/2012 | 4:04:54 AM
    re: Optovia Claims Longest SANs small advances in technology. No "NEW" advances. Mostly a smart packaging and integration of various off the shelf technologies. Optovia does not have an "optical component" invention team.

    Rather the team comes from heavy systems background. They have made a very very nice application and set of products that address market needs. But no new technologys in their system.

    Raman, EDFA.. both integrated with very smart control and other key optical elements.

    Smart team. Note: most of them are from Qtera... the ULH expert company that was sold to Nortel during the boom. Many of the guys at Optovia are the same guys who did world records in Ultra-Long Haul transmission system designs back in 2000.

    No big surprise they would be able to carry a FSAN signal 200km. They did multiple wavelengths at 10G over 3000km at Qtera. And NOTE: SAN networks are most often 4Gig speeds.. not 10G. Dispersion, PMD, and PDL are much less of an issue.

    There are others that could do this with off the shelf technology and components if they choose to focus their energy on this application space: Alcatel, Lucent, Nortel, Huawei, Cisco, others.

    Certainly the system from BTI Photonics can do much the same.

    My hat is off to Nail, Harmeet, Kirk and the rest of the team. Great job! Good design, good marketing, good management, good team.

    But I don't see anything particulary new in terms of the fundamental technology.

    Smart systems design and finding a niche that is not being addressed by others. Good planning and good marketing.

    paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:04:52 AM
    re: Optovia Claims Longest SANs
    Do you really think that Nortel would acquire a company that gave them the debacle that Qtera was?

    Let's see.

    Amount paid for Qtera - $3.5B (although given that this was stock and had performance components an actual number is ??)

    Number of Qtera systems sold by NT - 0.

    Good deal for Qtera? Yes.

    Good deal for NT? Are you kidding?

    ^Eagle^ 12/5/2012 | 4:04:49 AM
    re: Optovia Claims Longest SANs nope.. don't see Nortel.. not realistically. I would more easily see Nortel competing against the Optivia product with some configuration of their Common Photonic Layer platform.

    Regards Qtera.. well, do note that the guys who made out and got very rich from the sale to Nortel are not the guys who founded Optivia. The Optovia founders were mid level at Qtera. But they were much of the technical muscle on some of the key features. So my reference to Qtera was more meant to vouch for the probability that the product works as advertised.

    Regards your comment on the number of Qtera systems sold... hmmm... well that could be debated. I have a different recollection of reality. But my point is not to argue about Qtera past. Rather to spark conversation about what could happen next.

    I think that Optivia will have to have an exit strategy that includes a buyout. And given.. not at the levels of acquisitions we have seen in the past. But an acquisition still makes sense. Perhaps for ADVA, or Cisco or others that need to fill a niche in the product porfilio for certain types of optical transport. I would see a company like one of these picking up Optovia to fill the hole (or maybe a Tropic or someone like them if they got big enough). Faster course to getting the technology than inventing it.

    However, I think for some, like nortel specifically, it would be easier to simply develop a competitive product or product flavor and make more sense than buying Optovia.

    I tried to specifically note that Optivia's particular majic was integrating all the features to meet the need of the niche. And in how the management team recognized this niche and executed to take advantage of it. Not that there were any breakthroughs in fundamental optical amplification. I also tried to point out that the application could be knocked off by others. Including the big players like Nortel, Alcatel, et al, but also some guys like BTI.

    I do think that this technology will also be of great interest in the rollout of video in some types of both Cable TV and Telco TV nextworks. And of interest to be acquired by one or more of their OEM partners.

    by the way, I don't work for any of the companies I have mentioned in my posts. Not Optovia, not BTI, not Nortel, Alcatel, or any of the others. I am simply an educated and experience observer.

    photon2 12/5/2012 | 4:04:46 AM
    re: Optovia Claims Longest SANs There are plenty of PhotonEx folks there as well....as I recall no systems sold their either. Qtera was tested at Genuity, never deployed. PhotonEx was tested at DT...never deployed. Say no more.
    optiplayer 12/5/2012 | 4:04:43 AM
    re: Optovia Claims Longest SANs Big difference in the outcomes however:

    The founders of Qtera are likley kicking back on their yachts in the Carribean or flying off to some exotic locale in their jets while the founders of PhotonEx are, well, ... working for Optovia.

    Timing is everything!!
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