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Ranovus readies its interfaces for deployment 

  • Products will be deployed in the first half of 2015
  • Ranovus has raised US $24 million in a second funding round
  • The start-up is a co-founder of the OpenOptics MSA; Oracle is now also an MSA member.

Ranovus says its interconnect products will be deployed in the first half of 2015. The start-up, which is developing WDM-based interfaces for use in and between data centres, has raised US $24 million in a second stage funding round. The company first raised $11 million in September 2013.


Saeid Aramideh"There is a lot of excitement around technologies being developed for the data centre," says Saeid Aramideh, a Ranovus co-founder and chief marketing and sales officer. He highlights such technologies as switch ICs, software-defined networking (SDN), and components that deliver cost savings and power-consumption reductions. "Definitely, there is a lot of money available if you have the right team and value proposition," says Aramideh. "Not just in Silicon Valley is there interest, but in Canada and the EU."

The optical start-up's core technology is a quantum dot multi-wavelength laser which it is combining with silicon photonics and electronics to create WDM-based optical engines. With the laser, a single gain block provides several channels while Ranovus is using a ring resonator implemented in silicon photonics for modulation. The company is also designing the electronics that accompanies the optics.

Aramideh says the use of silicon photonics is a key part of the design. "How do you enable cost-effective WDM?" he says."It is not possible without silicon photonics." The right cost points for key components such as the modulator can be achieved using the technology. "It would be ten times the cost if you didn't do it with silicon photonics," he says. 

The firm has been working with several large internet content providers to turn its core technology into products. "We have partnered with leading data centre operators to make sure we develop the right products for what these folks are looking for," says Aramideh.

In the last year, the start-up has been developing variants of its laser technology - in terms of line width and output power - for the products it is planning. "A lot goes into getting a laser qualified," says Aramideh. The company has also opened a site in Nuremberg alongside its headquarters in Ottawa and its Silicon Valley office. The latest capital will be used to ready the company's technology for manufacturing and recruit more R&D staff, particularly at its Nuremberg site.

Ranovus is a founding member, along with Mellanox, of the 100 Gigabit OpenOptics multi-source agreement. Oracle, Vertilas and Ghiasi Quantum have since joined the MSA. The 4x25 Gig OpenOptics MSA has a reach of 2km-plus and will be implemented using a QSFP28 optical module. OpenOptics differs from the other mid-reach interfaces - the CWDM4, PSM4 and the CLR4 - in that it uses lasers at 1550nm and is dense wavelength-division multiplexed (DWDM) based.


It is never good that an industry is fragmented


That there are as many as four competing mid-reach optical module developments, is that not a concern? "It is never good that an industry is fragmented," says Aramideh. He also dismisses a concern that the other MSAs have established large optical module manufacturers as members whereas OpenOptics does not.

"We ran a module company [in the past - CoreOptics]; we have delivered module solutions to various OEMs that are running is some of the largest networks deployed today," says Aramideh. "Mellanox [the other MSA co-founder] is also a very capable solution provider."   

Ranovus plans to use contract manufacturers in Asia Pacific to make its products, the same contract manufacturers the leading optical module makers use.


Table 1: The OpenOptics MSA


End markets

"I don't think as a business, anyone can ignore the big players upgrading data centres," says Aramideh. "The likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and others that are switching from a three-tier architecture to a leaf and spine need longer-reach connectivity and much higher capacity." The capacity requirements are much beyond 10 Gig and 40 Gig, and even 100 Gig, he says.

Ranovus segments the adopters of interconnect into two: the mass market and the technology adopters. "Mass adoption today is all MSA-based," says Aramideh. "The -LR4 and -SR10, and the same thing is happening at 100 Gig with the QSFP28." The challenge for the optical module companies is who has the lowest cost.

Then there are the industry leaders such as the large internet content providers that want innovative products that address their needs now. "They are less concerned about multi-source standard-based solutions if you can show them you can deliver a product they need at the right cost," says Aramideh.

Ranovus will offer an optical engine as well as the QSFP28 optical module. "The notion of the integration of an optical engine with switch ICs and other piece parts in the data centre are more of an urgent need," he says.

Using WDM technology, the company has a scalable roadmap that includes 8x25 Gig and 16x25 Gig (400 Gig) designs. Also, by adding higher-order modulation, the technology will scale to 1.6 Terabit (16x100 Gig), says Aramideh.        


I don't see a roadmap for coherent to become cost-effective to address the smaller distances


Ranovus is also working on interfaces to link data centres.

"These are distances much shorter than metro/ regional networks," says Aramideh, with the bulk of the requirements being for links of 15 to 40km. For such relatively short distances, coherent detection technology has a high-power consumption and is expensive. "I don't see a roadmap for coherent to become cost-effective to address the smaller distances," says Aramideh.

Instead, the company believes that a direct-detection interconnect that supports 15 to 40km and which has a spectral efficiency that can scale to 9.6 Terabit is the right way to go. If that can be achieved, then switching from coherent to direct detection becomes a no-brainer, he says. "For inter-data-centres, we are really offering an alternative to coherent."

The start-up says its technology will be in product deployment with lead customers in the first half of 2015.


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