Ciena scoops Ottawa area firm

As if following the current fashion among high-tech companies in Ottawa, storage solutions provider Akara Corp. is about to be acquired by a U.S.-based network services firm.

Announced on Thursday, the deal would see Ciena Corp. of Linthicum, Md. swap US$45 million for Akara, which created disaster recovery technology that lets enterprises send data across telco networks for safe keeping.

Ciena spokesperson Denny Bilter said the acquisition makes sense for his firm.

“Akara has a very good product in a growth market that’s adjacent to the technology we currently supply. We saw this as real potential for Ciena in terms of entering a new market…and a product that would fit in very well with our portfolio.”

Stephen Adolph, Akara’s co-founder, said the agreement would take his company further than it could go on its own.

“They have the service infrastructure that, as a small company, we don’t have.”

Most of Akara’s 50 employees work out of the Ottawa office, although the firm does have a “small” sales presence in Dallas, Adolph said. He described Akara as a U.S./Canadian firm with a hand in both nations.

Akara is only the latest Ottawa-area shop to announce major moves south of the border. JDS Uniphase Corp., a fibre-optic network component maker, said it would consolidate its headquarters and regroup in San Jose. [Please see JDS shuffles executives, shifts head office.] Meanwhile Ottawa-based software firm Corel Corp. is getting ready to sell to Vector Capital Corp., a high-tech investment house from San Francisco.

Akara and Ciena’s reps, however, said the agreement between their companies brings good news for Canadian firms. For one thing, Akara will keep its Ottawa digs. Clients will receive as much attention as they ever did, Adolph said.

“From a sales perspective, the interfaces will be the same – same sales people, same phone numbers. I think the Web site will probably get redirected to Ciena, but for the most part everything will carry on exactly the way it is.”

Adolph said Ciena sees Akara as a primary foray into Canada. Also, “we are being viewed as what’s called the ‘Enterprise Solutions Group,’ which they’re (Ciena) viewing as a new line of business, an new division of the company. That’s going to be based in the Canadian operation.”

Adolph said the acquisition could spur a hiring spree at Akara, although “I don’t think we’ll go right out of the gate and hire people. I think over the next six months there will be a filling-out of the organization, rather than a thinning-out.”

Ciena’s US$45 million acquisition consists of US$31 million cash and US$14 million in Ciena common stock. The company said it expects to close the deal by the end of the year. For more information, visit Akara at Ciena is online at