This startup’s new router sends bits at the speed of light

Compass-EOS icPhotonics - In Hand

Given our obsession with connectivity, wireline and wireless networks are taking a beating as some service providers struggle to bring their costs in line with their revenue. To address the fears of decreasing margins, the communications industry is experimenting with technologies such as OpenFlow and bigger routers and faster networking gear as an effort to help them lower their costs.

Compass-EOS has been quietly working on these problems for six years and is now ready for its formal launch with a product aimed at the service providers’ core networks. The company has raised $120 million and spent more than half a decade developing a silicon-photonics-based router that would be faster, consume less power and is also more modular.

Pitango Venture Capital, Benchmark Capital, Northbridge Venture Partners, Crescent Point, Cisco Systems, Comcast Ventures and T-Ventures have all backed the company, which is based in Milpitas, Calif., and Netanya, Israel.

Routers are the workhorses of the internet. They determine where and how packets should travel around the web, and for years they’ve done this using specialty silicon that relied on electronic signals. But Compass-EOS’ technology is a new type of optical chip that allows the router to think at the speed of light — not at the speed of electrons.

Compass-EOS r10004 RouterThe resulting box is faster, consumes less energy and takes up less space. All of these things will help network operators keep pumping more traffic over their infrastructure, especially as they deploying faster networks. After all, if routers are the brains of the operation, they need to speed up too.

Optical chips are coming not just to the core of telco networks, but also to the data center as companies such as Intel, Cisco and IBM invest in photonics research, but also as startups like Plexxi and Skorpios, Kortura build chips and equipment that can process optical signals, as opposed to electric ones.

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