Lights out for Iris Group?

Sept. 25, 2001--The Iris Group, an alliance of four independent but cooperative startups, was formed in mid-2000 to develop a new optical network architecture designed to provide scalability for data-centric carrier networks. Unfortunately, the four startups bit off a little more than they could chew.

By Mardi Balgochian Scalise, Lightwave Web Editor

The Iris Group, an alliance of four independent but cooperative startups, was formed in mid-2000 to develop a new optical network architecture designed to provide scalability for data-centric carrier networks. Unfortunately, the four startups bit off a little more than they could chew.

Three of the firms were equipment companies: Metera Networks (Richardson, Tex.) developed metro/access systems; Coree Networks (Tinton Falls, N.J.) developed core packet switching systems; and Latus Lightworks (Richardson, Tex.), developed optical backbone systems. The fourth, Iris Labs (Plano, Tex.), is a design laboratory developing key intellectual property and network management software.

Although it didn't come to fruition, the Group's mission was on target: to develop a new optical network architecture that lets telecommunications carriers scale their networks all the way from the customer premise to the long haul, attaining transport and switching speeds of 40-160 gigabits per second and beyond on existing fiber infrastructures.

H. Michael Zadikian, Iris Group founder, said, "Up to now the optical industry has used the technique of concatenating SONET 51-Mbps STS-1 bit streams in the time dimension to create progressively faster data pipes for packet switches: STS-3c for 155 Mbps, STS-12c for 622 Mbps, STS-48c for 2.5 Gbps and STS-192c for 10 Gbps. But time concatenation is inherently limited by the bounds of the transmission rate within a wavelength. The Iris Group has come up with a way to increase pipe size in two dimensions: time concatenation within a wavelength and optical channel concatenation across wavelengths. In this manner, for instance, a two-dimensionally-concatenated ("cc") bit rate across 16 10-Gbps optical channels would yield a true 160-Gbps channel OC-3072cc. This approach enables pipe size to grow independently of transmission rate advances and their associated economics, which historically have evolved very slowly."

Regardless of the technology or the approach to a truly integrated solution, the Iris Group is now in trouble, purportedly for lack of funding.

Within the last week or so, Latus Lightworks, developer of a new generation of DWDM systems for core optical networks, was forced to close its doors. The company had already filed patents in optical engineering.

Metera Networks, formed to maximize bandwidth efficiencies of the optical transport infrastructure, was the most recent casualty. Confirmed today by Zadikian, Metera, too, is shutting down immediately. Metera Networks, Inc. had secured an admirable $24 million in its first round of funding.

Hundreds of employees at Latus and Metera lost their jobs, but at least had severance packages, which was more than employees from other recent optical business flops.

However, according to Zadikian, Coree Networks is pursuing a restart. Details have not yet been determined for the future of Coree, but the company still has breath in it even after it recently scrapped its work on a large-scale optical switch.

The future of the foundation of the Iris Group, Iris Labs, an optical network design laboratory formed to develop and commercialize key intellectual property in collaboration with the three equipment startups, is still unknown.

William Szeto, CEO of Iris Labs, assured that Iris Labs is still fully operational today. "While we are still struggling to secure funding to keep the company going, we have received great support from our current investors." Iris Labs is examining several possible alternatives but cannot disclose details at this time. "We are saddened by the closing of our sister companies but we realize that the market is terrible and the economy is bad especially after the September 11 incident. We, in Iris Labs, are working very hard to deal with the situation and we are doing everything we [can] to move forward."

When asked the $64,000-question about why these businesses floundered, Zadikian could only say, "The mission was right on and the technology worked."

The companies conducted technology demonstrations at SuperComm in Atlanta in June, and had planned individual product introductions later this year and throughout 2002.

About The Iris Group:

For more information, visit Iris Group web sites at www.metera.com, www.coreenetworks.com and www.latuslightworks.com and www.irislabs.com.

More in Companies