Network switching and connection devices, collection of prototypes for Wavelength Selective Switches (WSS) device, electronic components / optical components, designed and made by Engana / Optium / Finisar, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 2001-2008
In 2001 a team of veterans from previously successful photonic start-ups observed the looming explosion in data traffic (and hence bandwidth). The start-up team included Simon Poole, Dr Steve Frisken, Andrew Bartos, Andrew Kennedy and Ian Clark. This group had intellectual property and patents they wished to develop into practical devices to handle very high bandwidth. This team identified a need, a market, the customers and the competitors. After providing initial funding to start the company (Engana) and commencing prototype development, they sought further funding.
The prototypes produced by the Engana team demonstrate the evolution of a ground-breaking and successful product that is presently being manufactured and installed by network infrastructure companies worldwide. Engana developed an electro-optic platform that differed from those of competitors, who were applying micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) and traditional liquid crystal to the task. Engana based its wavelength selective switch (WSS) on liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS). LCOS was originally developed for rear-projection televisions and head-up displays used by the military.
During the prototype development process the Engana team realised the greater potential their product had for dynamic control of the LCOS. Previous hardware used in network communications had fixed spacing (e.g. 50 GHz), and changes to that required the physical removal and replacement of hardware. In contrast, their design could be supported by customisable and remotely controlled hardware and software. The whole project took a turn toward this end and in doing so the team created an intelligent optical subsystem that can remotely reconfigure networks.
Campbell Bickerstaff, 2011
The prototypes demonstrate the refinements and modification of the WSS product as the Engana team took their original ideas and tested them. The whole project underwent a tremendous shift early on when they realised they should be building a dynamic, programmable and customer modifiable product.
In 2001 a team of veterans from previously successful photonic start ups observed the looming explosion in data traffic (and hence bandwidth). This group had intellectual property and patents they wished to develop into practical devices to handle very high bandwidth. This team identified a need, a market, the customers and the competitors and after providing initial funding to start the company (Engana) and commence prototype development they sought further funding. An investor presentation in 2002 raised 5.3 million and in 2005 Engana sought a further $8m to fund product extension and a ramp up in manufacturing of their initial product. In 2006 Engana was purchased by Optium for $42 million; Optium was subsequently acquired by Finisar in 2008 for $211 million.