Cisco's co-founder wants to simplify fiber optic networks

Cisco co-founder Les Bosack's new company XKL introduced a new product line of fiber optic switches that could revolutionize how enterprise organizations use fiber optics in their networks.

After leaving Cisco 17 years ago, Cisco Systems co-founder Len Bosack started a new company. The man and his company have been quietly working away in semi-seclusion, partially because of a non-compete agreement that Mr. Bosack signed with his former company. That all changed about a year ago; his present company XKL introduced a new product line of fiber optic switches that could revolutionize how enterprise organizations use fiber optics in their networks.

XKL's new switch uses WDM

DXM is the name of XKL's fiber optic switch line and what makes the switches unique is how XKL merged familiar switch management techniques with wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) technology. The significance of WDM is its ability to increase overall bandwidth on fiber optic connections. The technology allows a single optical fiber to carry multiple signals by using a different wavelength (color) for each signal. The amazing part to me is the ability to take light, something that is almost intangible, and using WDM manipulate it in the following ways:

  • Modulate (unique and different wavelength) sources of light with digital information.
  • Multiplex all the individual light sources into a single collimated laser light beam.
  • Transmit the collimated light beam through a fiber optic cable.
  • Demultiplex the collimated light beam into the individual light sources at the receiving end.
  • Demodulate the individual sources of light in to useable digital information.

What makes DXM switches different?

I'd surmise that the subset of people having fiber optic (TL1 interface) networking skills is substantially smaller than the subset of people having wired/wireless (CL Interface) networking skills. Mr. Bosack confirms my suspicion, as he considers one of the important features of the DXM switches to be the Cisco-like command line interface. Many industry pundits are agreeing that this is a huge advantage and may allow businesses unwilling to consider fiber optic networks previously to rethink their decision. This is why I'm interested, as I'd consider myself one of the CL Interface types.

DXM advantages

Mr. Bosack and XKL see several advantages to DXM switch technology, especially where an organization has several campuses serviced by a MAN:

  • Ease of use is paramount as it allows the existing staff to install and maintain the fiber optic network.
  • Lower DXM equipment costs should position it well, when compared to standard fiber optic equipment.
  • Use available dark fiber that should be priced at a bargain.
  • Avoid carrier lengthy lead-times and high costs.

The first two points are obvious; it's the next two points that entail "out of the box" thinking and are unique to say the least -- especially since most in-ground fiber is owned by carriers. Maybe Mr. Bosack feels that avoiding "active" fiber optic services and not having to activate fiber optic networks with equipment from traditional telecom vendors is how savings are realized.

Final thoughts

I see several examples of where this technology will be very useful. Right away, multi-building campuses come to mind as well as corporations that have several campuses in a metro area. In fact there are several organizations using DXM switch technology right now. The University of Washington is using DXM switches to build fiber optic links at the Seattle campus as well as connecting remote sites in the region.

I see another real opportunity as well. Recently, I posted "WiMAX's slow rollout may be technical" where I mentioned the problems WiMAX carriers are having in getting adequate bandwidth to the towers. The DXM switch might be the perfect solution for setting up simple and cost-effective fiber optic connections to the WiMAX cell towers.

Finally, Mr. Bosack has a proven and very impressive record that should give his new concepts and company a certain amount of traction.