Fiber-optic technology marries multiservice platforms, SONET

A young company whose mission statement includes the words "simplify" and "reduce cost and complexity" has introduced an optical-fiber-network technology designed to eliminate the maze of equipment often required to handle mixed protocols and interfaces.

Mar 1st, 2000

A young company whose mission statement includes the words "simplify" and "reduce cost and complexity" has introduced an optical-fiber-network technology designed to eliminate the maze of equipment often required to handle mixed protocols and interfaces.

Mayan Networks' (Sunnyvale, CA) Unifier is billed as a next-generation fiber-optic solution that aggregates, routes, and switches time-division multiplexing, frame relay, Internet protocol, and Asynchronous Transfer Mode traffic at the packet and cell level across Layers 1-4, eliminating the need for many existing products. Unifier works with other equipment already installed in the network and migrates users to an all-optical network. It's designed to bring core bandwidth to the optical edge.

Early investors have been quick with their praise and generous with their wallets. Mayan Networks has secured $90 million in investment financing to help launch Unifier, what Peter Morris of New Enterprise Associates (Reston, VA) calls "a breakthrough product that will change the way network service providers manage traffic at the edge of their networks." George Kelly, managing director at Morgan Stanley Venture Partners (Menlo Park, CA), says, "We believe that the size of the market for Unifier is in excess of $5 billion per year."

The pot of gold that Mayan Networks hopes is at the end of the rainbow is nestled on the basic premise of bottleneck breaking. In this case, it's the vast number of Internet users who are still using slow, telephone line- dependent access to get to a technology that can deliver enormous capacity over a single optical cable. The bottleneck, Mayan believes, is not at the core but "at the edge of the network, where we all work and live," says Daniel Gatti, president and chief executive.

Specifically, Unifier is targeting a two-pronged problem: service providers that are looking for solutions that interoperate with existing Synchronous Optical Network (SONET) technology but keep the door open for future optical technologies; and multiple protocols, interfaces, and transport types that have caused complexity at the network's edge, as service providers evolve into integrated-communication-voice, video, and data-providers. With its new technology, Mayan Networks hopes to attract providers looking to simplify, unify, and even reduce the amount of equipment currently needed to deal with their mix of protocols.

"We survey the industry continuously, and we think Mayan Networks has taken the right approach," says Paul Johnson, managing director of equity research at Robertson Stephens (New York City). "Compatibility with the existing SONET optical network combined with simplified operation and maintenance is the key to penetrating this market."

The company has been conducting trials of Unifier, with hopes of commercial availability by this month. Starting price for a low-end box with OC-3, Ethernet, T1, and T3 interfaces is about $20,000. For more information, browse the company's Website at www.mayannetworks.com.
-Steve Smith

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