New gear gives gigabit WANs a chance

Line-speed gigabit Ethernet WANs are out of the question now, because they would cost too much for carriers to roll out and customers to buy, but start-up LuxN is working to make such services affordable.

LuxN makes fibre-optic gear that connects customer sites to carrier networks over fibre access links.

The company says its prices are low enough that carriers can offer high-bandwidth connections without breaking enterprise budgets.

The 15-month-old company is just coming out of stealth mode, releasing preliminary information on products that will be announced formally later this year. The offerings include a single-user/single termination device; a multi-tenant customer site termination device; and a central office aggregation box.

One piece of LuxN equipment would be installed at a customer site and take in traffic from, say, an OC-3 uplink from a gigabit Ethernet switch anchoring a LAN. The customer site box would pump the traffic out over an optical fibre line to a larger LuxN box in a carrier’s network.

From there, the traffic would be dropped on a metropolitan fibre ring for delivery to another corporate site.

The gear would simply transport the customer’s traffic without imposing the framing of SONET, much of which is unnecessary for point-to-point links.

LuxN says it will initially offer OC-3, OC-12, gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel cards for its modular boxes. The cards go into beta testing this fall. Other cards will be tested early next year, the company says.

While speeds such as OC-12 may be more generally associated with SONET, SONET gear is more expensive and requires more complex provisioning. While LuxN has not yet priced (or named) its equipment, the company says it expects to charge less than US$10,000 for its small customer-site box.

While wave division multiplexing technology that puts multiple wavelengths on a single fibre is becoming more common in carrier long-haul networks, it is generally seen as being too expensive for connecting customer sites into carrier nets. LuxN gear will support multiple wavelengths on a single fibre, but probably not more than eight in order to keep costs down, the company says.

LuxN is tailoring its optical gear for local services by including management software that will help keep down the costs of deploying and upgrading services to many customers.

LuxN’s products will also give customers the option of retaining some management control.

For example, LuxN’s Color Valve technology allows carriers or their customers to turn the bandwidth on a link up or down as customers’ needs change.

The management software’s Signal Integrity Monitoring feature tracks the quality of the optical signal over the connection and can be used to monitor service-level guarantees.

LuxN, whose name comes from the Latin words for “empowered by light,” draws its key executives from financial and technical firms. Company CEO Tom Alexander was a venture capitalist with Santa Clara Associates, and vice- president of marketing Lee Zipin was technology adviser to Angel Ventures, another venture capital firm.

Director of marketing Eugene Park and vice-president of pperations Sabeur Siala both formerly worked at SBC-Technology, which makes laser diodes.

The company has US$8 million in funding from New Enterprise Associates and U.S. Venture Partners.