Optical amplifier maker says it can double SAN extension over wide-area networks

March 9, 2006

3 Min Read
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An optical amplifier startup claims it can double the distance of SAN traffic over wide-area DWDM (dense wavelength-division multiplexing) networks. If it proves out, the world's longest SANs may be in the offing.

Optovia Corp., based in Acton, Mass., with roughly 40 employees at present, says its new amplifiers carry Fibre Channel traffic over distances up to 200 kilometers, eliminating the cost and complexity of extra, intermediate amplifiers. (Bemused? Stay with us.)

Optovia, founded in 2002, develops optical transport subsystems for telecom and cable service providers. Also among its customers are firms that build systems for enterprises that have their own optical networks.

The number of companies interested in optical networking for SAN transport is growing, according to Niall Robinson, VP of marketing at Optovia. The need for compliance and more storage, as well as increased threats to data centers from hurricanes and other disasters, has brought a run on cheaper-than-ever dark fiber. "Synchronous storage distances are getting wider," Robinson asserts.

Optovia solves a key problem encountered by enterprises that have lit their own fiber -- how to avoid installing amplifiers to freshen Fibre Channel signals. Up to now, so-called mid-span amplifiers have typically been required every 80 kilometers or so, increasing costs and making networks more complicated.While the amplification issue is optical and isn't unique to Fibre Channel traffic, growing demand for long-distance SANs has brought the need to the fore.

Optovia says its new amplifier, the SpanExpress Line System, available now for undisclosed prices to OEMs, uses a blend of Raman and EDFA (erbium doped fiber amplifier) technologies to boost optical signals and eliminate additional amplifiers. Optovia claims SpanExpress cuts the equipment needed for optical networks by 42 percent and reduces the mean time between repairs for optical networks to hours instead of days.

Optovia has a couple of optical transport gear OEMs that plan to use its amps. One, ADVA Optical Networking, has signed on, according to Optovia. The vendor confirms the selection, without saying exactly where the amplifiers will be used. DVA's DWDM gear is in the EMC Select Partner Program, however, which makes its support significant. Its optical customers include the Networking and Technical Services Group of the Catholic Health Systems of Buffalo, N.Y., and Ohio State University Medical Center. (See The Optical Side of Storage.) Ciena and Nortel, which compete with ADVA in this space, also appear on EMC's list of partners.

While these and other optical transport suppliers, like Cisco, have been linked to Optovia, Robinson hints that another big fish may come aboard soon. "We have multiple customers of our Hut-Skip Line System [existing amplifier equipment]. And one OEM we're working with to close this quarter... If that happens, we'll have a very large percentage of those selling into the SAN space."

At least one analyst says Optovia's approach is unique, compared with those of amplifier competitors like Avanex, Bookham, Furukawa, and JDSU. Scott Clavenna, chief analyst at Heavy Reading, hasn't seen anyone clear the 200km limit for SAN traffic.There's a market for this, Clavenna says. "Now that we're seeing SAN extension requirements extend beyond 100 kilometers, a solution that doesn't require inline optical amplifiers out in the field will have lower capital and operational costs."

One company that uses lots of SAN transport gear recently acknowledged the market momentum. "Seventy-five percent of our networks are storage related," said Mark Smith, president of Centrepath Networks, which helps firms build private optical and storage networks, in a recent interview. (See SAN Extension.)

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • ADVA Optical Networking (Frankfurt: ADV)

  • Avanex Corp. (Nasdaq: AVNX)

  • Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Furukawa America Inc.

  • JDS Uniphase Corp. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU)

  • Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT)

  • Optovia Corp.

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