Zenastra unveils new optical devices

Ottawa-based Zenastra Photonics Inc. has announced the first two products in its new family of multi-function passive optical devices.

The first products are aimed at the metropolitan dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) optical systems market. Not yet available, the first offerings in the line are an eight-channel configurable optical add/drop multiplexer (COADM8) and an eight-channel variable optical attenuator multiplexer/demultiplexer (VMUX8).

According to David King, Zenastra’s vice-president of marketing, Zenastra is built on a three-tier strategy – single-function devices, multi-function devices and combining active and passive technologies. The COADM8 and VMUX8 fall into the second tier.

“Customers are looking for a certain level of integration in their initial [network] designs and as they actually start changing their architectures and re-spinning their boards, they’re looking at combining multiple functions to basically make the design more compact so they can put more stuff on a card. That actually makes the product more cost-effective because not only is the device potentially less expensive, but you have fewer to inventory and fewer to assemble,” King said. The more functionality you can put into a device, the less headache there is from an assembly and reliability standpoint, he added.

Zenastra’s COADM8 product adds channels to a stream of light and drops channels from a stream of light. Up to eight channels can be modified independently.

“Because there’s basically a switching technology in the middle of the components, you don’t have to pre-configure which channel you’re going to add and which ones you’re going to drop,” King said. It allows you to change bandwidth requirements at the edge of the network on the fly, he explained.

The VMUX8 product combines a variable optical attenuator (VOA) with an integrated multiplexer. Essentially, it acts as the optical channel equivalent of a stereo’s graphic equalizer, King said. The VMUX8 demultiplexes signals and allows managers to adjust the volume independently so the channels going into a device are all at the same power level.

“Like in the speaker analogy, it’s so you don’t blow your speaker,” King said.

Doug McEuen, senior marketing analyst for optical networking for Pioneer Consulting in Phoenix, Ariz., said the market for devices like those from Zenastra is low right now, but carriers are very interested in the technology.

“There’s no real standards for one set of technology, so in the metro market, you’ve got a lot of people using a lot of different technology,” McEuen said. “There’s such a plethora of different technologies and different types of situations that can arise, that having a so-called ‘god box’ that can do everything is very interesting to carriers that don’t want to keep upgrading and changing equipment every time a new technology seems to get a little hotter than something else.”

Multi function devices appeal to general optical equipment manufacturers like the big household names in telecommunications, said Erik Kreifeldt, an analyst at RHK Inc. in Washington, D.C. It saves them resources because it’s not necessary to integrate multiple devices together. Multi-function devices have the capabilities of the devices in one.

The COADM8 and VMUX8 will be available around October. Prices have not yet been set. Zenastra Photonics can be found on the Web at www.zenastra.com.