Start-up claims breakthrough in optical switching

Start-up Lynx Photonic Networks Inc. says it has an optical-to-optical switching technology that’s needed by optical backbones and is more reliable than alternatives from other vendors. Lynx is introducing an optical switch fabric that switches light from optical fibre to optical fibre without having to first convert the light into an electrical signal, an essential capability of high-speed optical networks.

Lynx claims the technology is more dependable than alternatives because it doesn’t rely on moving parts, nor do its components go through state changes, such as turning from a liquid to a gas. Tiny adjustable mirrors used in Lucent’s Lambda Router, for instance, have such moving parts. Optical switching fabric made by Agilent uses tiny bubbles created by heating a liquid into a gas to divert light. Industry experts say mirrors and bubbles have not withstood the test of time, so it is uncertain whether a device based on them would require periodic maintenance to replace them.

Lynx has a switch that can handle an eight-by-eight grid of waveguides. It says it will have a 32-by-32 switch by the third quarter of 2001.

Yahoo offers encrypted e-mail

Yahoo Inc. officially announced a feature that allows users of its free e-mail service, Yahoo Mail, to send and receive encrypted messages. The feature, offered through ZixIt Corp.’s SecureDelivery service, has been in beta testing for some time now. When a user chooses the “SecureDelivery” option, the e-mail message and attachments are encrypted and stored on-line, Yahoo said. The recipient is sent a notification and the message can be picked up from, a wholly owned subsidiary of ZixIt.

To read the message the recipient must enter a pass phrase. This will unlock a Web page secured by the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) standard. Yahoo is the first of the major Web portals to provide an encryption service.