Firm aims to simplify optical networks

Mayan Networks Corp. wants to take the complexity out of optical networks. Specifically, the company wants to remove digital cross-connects, frame relay switches, ATM switches and SONET add-drop multiplexers from service provider metropolitan-area networks.

The result: less expensive carrier infrastructure and less expensive services to corporate customers, Mayan claims.

Mayan would replace that gear with Unifier, Mayan’s optical access switch. The switch would sit directly on a metropolitan SONET ring and act as an add-drop multiplexer, putting traffic on the fibre ring and taking it off via a SONET port. Other ports on the box support ATM, frame relay, time-division multiplexing and IP.

To amass the multiprotocol expertise it needs, Mayan has filled out its roster with employees from 3Com Corp., Lucent Technologies Inc., Verilink Corp., Paradyne Corp. and SyOptics. The company also has opened development facilities in Phoenix for ATM work and in Richardson, Texas for optical.

Metropolitan SONET rings today are anchored by add-drop multiplexers that are fed traffic by routers or switches. The muxes have been optimized for voice. Unifier takes on the function of the switches and routers and is more efficient about putting data on the fibre, the Mayan says.

Unifier aggregates traffic bound for the fibre ring and crams more traffic into the SONET format than is done with an add-drop multiplexer, Mayan claims. Because the equipment can break down the SONET OC-12 bandwidth into 1.5Mbps channels, it can fill up the bandwidth available on the ring more efficiently than a traditional SONET mux, according to Daniel Gatti, Mayan’s president and CEO.

The cost of setting up a service provider point of presence with Unifier is US$212,000, vs. the cost of multiple single-function equipment, which Mayan says is US$556,000.

Unifier can switch any port to any port, and the protocol each port handles is software-defined. So a T-1 hardware card can be programmed to support ATM, frame relay or time division multiplexing. Because of this flexibility, the switch does not necessarily have to sit on a SONET ring.

It can, for example, reside in an office park, attached to a carrier network by an OC-3 trunk. A service provider could use it to distribute lower-speed services, such as frame relay, voice or ATM, to customers in the park, Gatti says.

Replacing multiple boxes with one unifier would give carriers a single platform run by a single management system, which would simplify network monitoring, maintenance and provisioning, he says.

Unifier is going into beta testing now, and is expected to be generally available by midyear.

Mayan is at