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Cyan Optics and Economic Reality

Om Malik has a post on GigaOm entitled The Return of the Optical Startup — Cyan Optics Launches discussing a new start-up in the optical space, Cyan Optics. As I read his post I had a thought, which I was happy to see he captured near the end of the article:

Many of these products have been talked about for years. In an ideal world, Cisco would have developed some of these technologies as next-generation Cerent products. When I talked to Hatfield last week, he pointed out that the carriers want to deliver more bandwidth and yet keep the costs of delivering that bandwidth low, otherwise the network economics breakdown. Cyan was started to address this quandary, he said.

I haven’t met with Cyan yet, though I may have exchanged emails with them sometime over the past year… My memory is so overloaded with cloud networking these days that I can’t recall. ;)

In any case, I’m glad to hear about their strategy for an optical multi-service platform. This is something that I’ve hoped for and expected for some time. I’m surprised that Cisco hasn’t built this already, given their integration of optical capabilities in router platforms like the CRS. With the right optical multi-service platform, technologies like GMPLS and GFP could enable more dynamic networking in the transport layer for both access and backbone. This is a vision that Cisco seems to have in their mind, and yet to me they seem blind to the need for multi-service L1 and L2 network elements.

Cyan’s management platform also looks impressive. This isn’t an area in which Cisco has been impressive, either. But take a look at Cyan’s multi-layer visualization from their website:

Cyan Multi-Layer Visualization

Maybe Cyan can help wake Cisco up to the reality of building physical networks. Perhaps they will be an interesting acquisition target for Cisco, if not a competitor. I’ve thought the same thing about previous start-up platforms (like the impressive Hammerhead Systems L2.5 MSE platform) and I turned out to be wrong then. But perhaps the recovering economy will cast a new light on the situation. After all, we’re seeing that there is demand for bandwidth even in a broad economic down-turn. But there is money to be made only if platform vendors enable service providers to build economical networks, recognizing that profit margins are already razor-thin for most.

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