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Managing Editor

Chiaro ships router, announces customer win

May 26, 20033 mins

* Start-up Chiaro Networks ships optical crossbar switch router

Chiaro Networks last week announced general availability of a high-end routing system as well as an additional customer deployment.

The Enstara router is an optical crossbar switch that leverages optics to switch packets internally among line cards. Chiaro claims to have 50 patents issued on Enstara’s design, including a so-called Optical Phased Array (OPA) technique which uses scores of gallium-arsenide optical waveguides in parallel to refract light, under electrical stimulation, from a single ingress fiber to multiple egress fibers.

Chiaro claims Enstara can reduce capital expenditures per point of presence by more than 60%. This is achieved through PoP consolidation and eliminating the need to deploy redundant routers for availability.

Carriers will be able to reduce a typical PoP cluster – ranging from four to 12 routers – to one Enstara multi-chassis routing platform, Chiaro claims. Chiaro’s router provides 99.999% reliability through a technique called Stateful Assured Routing (STAR). STAR is designed to provide non-disruptive routing protocol switchover in the event of potential outages caused by protocol resets and route convergence times.

It does this, Chiaro officials say, by maintaining TCP state and sessions during resynchronization. Failover is undetectable by a Chiaro routing peer, they claim, and packet forwarding is uninterrupted.

BTexact – BT’s research, technology and IT operations business – recently put STAR through its paces, as well as Enstara’s implementation of BGP, OSPF, IS-IS routing protocols, and the platform’s scalability, ability to define routing partitions and forwarding performance.  Enstara completed all evaluations successfully, Chiaro says.

Chiaro also announced that San Francisco CLEC IP Networks is deploying Enstara as the IP/MPLS core to its optical network serving commercial enterprises, government institutions, and service providers in San Francisco’s Financial District and Peninsula, Silicon Valley, and East Bay. The Enstara platform will be hosted at the Ames Internet Exchange, which serves as a major node on IP Network’s network.

IP Networks currently provides the Ames Internet Exchange with multi-gigabit connectivity to other peering exchanges and operates five off-site expansion exchanges currently hosted at NASA Ames Research Center in the Bay Area.

IP Networks is Chiaro’s second announced customer. Enstara is also deployed at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology next-generation grid network, OptIPuter.

Despite Chiaro’s reliability claims and customer wins, some analysts were lukewarm to Enstara’s market entry.

“The announcement enables Chiaro to keep pace with fellow IP router startups Caspian Networks and Procket Networks, which both announced general availability in April,” says Joe McGarvey, an analyst at Current Analysis, in a report issued this week on Enstara. “Enstara’s low-density levels in the initial release and the fact that the environment for core IP routing remains extremely challenging, continue to make Chiaro’s attempts to make in-roads into major service provider infrastructures extremely challenging. (And) most players in the space will not pay significant attention to any startup until it breaks through with a deployment with a large carrier.”

Chiaro has raised $210 million  since its founding in 2000.

Managing Editor

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 28 years, 23 at Network World. He covers enterprise networking infrastructure, including routers and switches. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy and at

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