Optical services highlight NFOEC

At the National Fiber Optics Engineers Conference (NFOEC) in Baltimore last month, start-up Akara Corp. unveiled a switch designed to deliver managed wavelength services to enterprises.

Akara was founded in March 2000 by former Cambrian executives and is funded by Battery Ventures and Greylock Partners. Nortel acquired Cambrian in 1998.

Storage is the killer app for wavelengths to the enterprise, said Akara CEO Ed Ogonek. Fifty per cent of IT budgets are spent on storage, and 20 per cent of storage expenditures are spent on networking, he said. Also storage traffic, as well as LAN traffic, is doubling annually, Ogonek said.

But even though US$30 billion was spent last year on optical connectivity, according to Ogonek, only five per cent to 10 per cent of enterprises are buying it. What gives?

Enterprises need a tight complement between optical bandwidth and services. It’s great to have a fat pipe but what about cost, performance, quality of service (QoS), security and manageability?

Akara hopes to cover all those bases with the Optical Utility Service Platform (OUSP), an “intelligent services” multiplexer that delivers public network-based Fibre Channel, ESCON and gigabit Ethernet services to the enterprise. The OUSP is essentially a SONET mux with STS-1 granularity that muxes up to six services onto a lambda at 100Mbps to 1Gbps increments, Ogonek said.

OUSP is designed to lower the cost of extending optics to the enterprise by 50 to 70 per cent over dark fibre and dense wave division multiplexing, Ogonek said. That, in addition to manageability issues and a dearth of compelling new services, is what’s keeping fibre from the building, he said.

Along with OUSP, Akara unveiled customers and partners for the platform at NFOEC. StorageNetworks Inc. is a customer, and Corning Inc. is a partner. Corning and Akara will demonstrate 1Gbps “full-rate” Fibre Channel services running over Corning’s MetroCore fibre at up to 200km without regeneration.

Akara is also working with Brocade Communications Systems Inc. to certify interoperability between OUSP and Brocade’s SilkWorm Fibre Channel switches.

Additionally, Akara discussed at NFOEC how OUSP can offer guaranteed service-level agreements, QoS and security to enterprise optical converts by measuring, policing and enforcing latency and throughput thresholds. The OUSP rollout will include a management application for this.

“Today’s proposition is a transport wavelength, just bandwidth, to the enterprise,” Ogonek said. “This is managed services.”

The software-programmable, three-rack-unit OUSP will include six service interfaces and two OC-48 trunk connections. It will compete with dense wave division multiplexing offerings from Cisco Systems Inc., Nortel Networks Corp. and ONI Systems Corp., IP storage devices, and multiservice platforms from Redback Networks Inc. and The Coriolis Group LLC, Ogonek said.

Betas have been completed and the product shipped in July.