Polatis goes large with 192x192 all-optical switch

Cambridge, UK-based company Polatis Inc. has launched a bigger all-optical switch. The Series 6000 Optical Matrix Switch can connect up to 192x192 fiber ports with less than 1 dB typical loss. This is double the size of the firm’s previous products while offering the same or better performance metrics, the company claims.

Mar 1st, 2012

Cambridge, UK-based company Polatis Inc. has launched a bigger all-optical switch. The Series 6000 Optical Matrix Switch can connect up to 192x192 fiber ports with less than 1 dB typical loss. This is double the size of the firm’s previous products while offering the same or better performance metrics, the company claims.

“We’ve gone from 96 port pairs to 192 optical pairs in the non-blocking optical switch, but we’ve kept the same optical performance, so you still get less than 1 dB typically in terms of the optical loss through the fabric,” explained Nick Parsons, CTO and vice president of engineering at Polatis. An insertion loss of less than 1 dB is of similar order to a patch cord, he says.

Polatis also says it has doubled the physical density so the box size stays the same, and doubled the energy efficiency, so the power consumption stays the same. The product comes in a 3U-high box, the size being determined by the number of connectors on the face plate. The switching time is fast too – Polatis’ DirectLight technology uses piezo-electric actuators to move optical fibers, and can reconfigure the entire matrix in just 10 to 20 ms, the company says.

Polatis reckons its technology “has taken the high ground in terms of performance,” but until now competitors could offer switches with much larger port counts.

“A number of times a customer would buy our switch and they’d buy another [vendor’s] larger switch for another part of the network where performance wasn’t quite so important,” said Jerry Wesel, president and CEO of Polatis. The new product will plug that gap.

Polatis’ earlier products have port counts from 4x4 to 32x32, and a few years ago the firm came out with a slightly larger switch with 96x96 ports. The smaller switches are widely used in manufacturing test automation, says Wesel, while the larger size is popular in the government and defense markets (see “Polatis partners with JDSU in test and measurement market”).

A larger all-optical switch opens up new market opportunities. One potential application is in agile optical networks using ROADMs, where operators want to be able to connect any wavelength in any direction without blocking or contention. Wavelength-selective switches are used for the pass-through wavelengths, while the optical matrix switch provides add/drop functionality.

Polatis also has its eye on the data center and collocation market, where all-optical switches can be used to connect server clusters. That’s the same market being pursued by competitor Calient Technologies (see “CALIENT Technologies raises $19.4 million for optical switching for enterprise, cloud computing markets”).

Like Calient, Polatis has received new investment to help it expand sales and production as it moves into new markets, although its investors weren’t as generous. The company closed a $2.7 million funding round in early February. All of its existing investors participated in the round: Alta Berkeley, DFJ Esprit, and Encore Ventures based in London; and Flagship Ventures and JK&B Capital based in the US.

Production shipments of the Series 6000 are expected to start in the second quarter of 2012, and there is a backlog of orders, according to Wesel.

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