Ciena buys TeraXion’s indium phosphide, silicon photonics assets

Ciena Corp. (NYSE:CIEN) and privately held TeraXion say they have reached an agreement through which Ciena will acquire the Canadian company’s High-Speed Photonics Components (HSPC) assets. Ciena will pay roughly CAN$46.6 million (US$32 million) for the assets, which cover indium phosphide and silicon photonics technologies as well as underlying intellectual property (IP).

Ciena described the technologies and IP involved as “key enablers of Ciena’s industry-leading WaveLogic coherent optical chipsets.”

Ciena, while headquartered in Maryland, has a significant presence in Ottawa. The TeraXion group will remain in Quebec City as part of Ciena’s Packet Optical Platforms organization, under the leadership of current TeraXion CTO Martin Guy, while bolstering Ciena’s R&D activities in Ottawa. Ian Woods, TeraXion’s current HSPC Business Unit leader, is also among the employees who will move to Ciena.

TeraXion first made its mark in the fiber-optic network market with its tunable dispersion compensators (see, for example, “Teraxion intros wavelength-tunable dispersion compensator”). A few years ago, the company branched out into coherent receivers and modulators, an effort boosted when the company purchased modulator assets from COGO Optronics in 2013 (see “Teraxion acquires modulator expertise from COGO Optronics”). This work culminated with the development of an InP modulator for 400-Gbps applications (see “TeraXion sampling 400-Gbps InP modulator”). TeraXion also began to develop silicon photonics expertise; the company delivered a paper at ECOC 2015 about its efforts to develop a silicon photonics enabled PAM4 modulator (see “ECOC 2015 Reporter’s Notebook: Day 1″).

Ciena isn’t saying whether they have plans for these modules. “We’re not getting into the specifics of how we use the assets we’re buying,” wrote Nicole Anderson, senior director, corporate communications at Ciena, in response to a Lightwave email query. “Simple story is that this is a strategic acquisition designed to give us greater control of a technology set that complements our WaveLogic chipset. It will help enhance the flexibility we have with respect to modulation format capabilities to continue demonstrating leading price performance across a full range of applications from DCI [data center interconnect] to trans-pacific submarine links.”

Meanwhile, TeraXion President and CEO Alain-Jacques Simard confirmed in an email that the HSPC asset sale basically returns the company to its roots in dispersion compensation and various filter technologies when it comes to the optical communications market. The company also will remain active in fiber lasers and optical sensing applications.

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Southern Cross adds capacity, enhances packet transport

The operators of the Southern Cross Cable Network say they have added 900 Gbps of capacity to their submarine network. The upgrade raises the undersea fiber-optic network’s total network lit capacity to 5.8 Tbps. Meanwhile, the company also has improved its packet transport capabilities to enhance Carrier Ethernet service delivery.

Both initiatives benefited Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), which is the Southern Cross Cable Network’s primary optical transport systems supplier. The Ciena 6500 is the workhorse optical platform for the submarine cable network (see, for example, “Southern Cross submarine fiber network jumps to 100G”). However, Ciena also delivered enhanced technology for other systems it has supplied for the network.

“While we have augmented our transmission by 900 Gbps per segment, we have also upgraded our key Ciena 5430 nodes to 15-Tbps OTN switching capability, a first for the region and a world first for a submarine cable operator as far as we are aware,” detailed Southern Cross President & CEO Anthony Briscoe. “Southern Cross’ key switching nodes are now capable of switching over 100 times Southern Cross’ original segment capacity.

“Our latest expansion has also deployed Ciena’s 200-Gbps per wavelength technology across our Hawaiian inter-island network in another world-first in technology activation, as well as continuing to leverage Ciena’s flexible grid, GeoMesh, and 8D-2QAM technologies to maximize capacity and resiliency within our network while ensuring operational simplicity, scalability, and evolution toward software-defined networking (SDN),” Briscoe added.

Meanwhile, Southern Cross has decided to install the Ciena 8700 Packetwave packet switching platform as well. The systems will help the operator provide MEF CE2.0 compliant Carrier Ethernet packet transport services at data rates from 1 Gbps to 100 Gbps.

“Along with our existing key Internet data center access points such as Equinix in Sydney, CoreSite in San Jose, and the Westin Building in Seattle, these developments cement the Southern Cross position as the only single system provider of highly resilient innovative international capacity solutions between key data locations in Australia, New Zealand, the USA, and Fiji,” asserts Southern Cross CTO Dean Veverka.

These recent upgrades, paired with previous enhancements, have extended the network’s lifetime to at least 2030 while giving it a potential capacity of 14 Tbps, Southern Cross adds. Further network enhancements are likely, Briscoe indicates.

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What The Juniper Breach Teaches Us About The Domestic Dangers Of Backdoors

A common refrain amongst all the conversation about encryption the last few months has been the need for technical “backdoors” to be built into encryption and communications platforms that allow authorized law enforcement to intercept and monitor civilian communications. The argument goes that without such backdoors, criminal and terrorist actors will increasingly “go dark” using encryption to organize their activities and attacks. One commonly recommended solution is the weakening of encryption by inserting secret backdoors accessible only to law enforcement. In such a model all communications are encrypted to prevent criminal actors or foreign states from being able to listen to communications, but American law enforcement and their allies will be able to access such communications using a master decryption key.

Of course, the most immediate challenge to such arrangements is that they ignore the globalized state of encryption today and the fact that terror organizations are increasingly using foreign encryption systems that are beyond the reach of US legislation. It is unlikely for example that a Russian or Chinese encryption product would knowingly include a backdoor for the use of US intelligence services to be able to monitor their domestic citizens. More worryingly, the notion of who constitutes a “terrorist” or just what is defined as “illegal” content varies dramatically across the world.

As I noted last month, if the US were to mandate that backdoors be provided for US intelligence use in all communications hardware and software systems, from telecommunications equipment to social media sites, manufactured or headquartered in the US, every other country in the world would demand the same. Instead of a backdoor for only US use, China would certainly demand the ability to monitor US citizen communications in its country and abroad for counter terrorism purposes as well.

Yet, setting aside the globalization aspect, the recently discovered Juniper breach offers a powerful cautionary tale of the inadvertent dangers of backdoors in general. Much still remains unknown about the Juniper breach in terms of who constructed and inserted the backdoors and especially whether they were the work of the US Government or a foreign power, and whether they were all built by the same organization or different organizations building upon one another’s work.

What is known is that the NSA had certainly been hard at work building its own backdoors into Juniper products. A 2008 internal NSA catalog listed several exploits designed to provide interception backdoors into Juniper network equipment with the advertisement that the system “has been deployed on many target platforms.” Yet, the NSA system, called FEEDTHROUGH, is described as a firmware implant, whereas the current disclosures relate to modifications of the operating system itself, making them available on every affected Juniper system in the world.

The Intercept describes ongoing collaborations between the NSA and GCHQ specifically focused on vulnerabilities and backdoor capabilities for the Juniper product line, clustering around the same capabilities and models affected by the currently disclosed vulnerabilities. This has led to speculation that the recently discovered vulnerabilities were the product of an enterprising third party who extended and built upon earlier backdoor weaknesses inserted by the NSA. This is bolstered by the relevant difficulty of detecting the primary backdoor, while the hardcoded administrative password is readily locatable.

Perhaps most frighteningly, Juniper itself notes that “a skilled attacker would likely remove [unauthorized login] entries from the log file, thus effectively eliminating any reliable signature that the device had been compromised … there is [therefore] no way to detect that this vulnerability was exploited.” Put another way, for most companies and other organizations, there is simply no way to go back to see whether anyone has actually exploited these vulnerabilities to penetrate their networks or monitor their VPN traffic.

The fact that these vulnerabilities were inserted several years ago and were only just detected also reinforces the dangers inherent in the incredible complexity of modern systems. It took just 145,000 lines of code for the Apollo 11 computer that put humans on the moon, while a modern smartphone is powered by 12 million lines and today’s cars can have 100 million or more lines of code. The Windows operating system is estimated at 50 million lines of code developed over more than 30 years, while Google’s infrastructure is believed to exceed 2 billion lines of code today. With such massive systems it becomes easier and easier for vulnerabilities and malicious code to be inserted and remain undetected for years.

The US Government has strenuously denied that it had any involvement in creating or distributing the current vulnerabilities, with officials commenting that it has been scrambling to determine the potential dangers to its own networks. If it is in fact the case that the US Government was caught entirely unaware and if, as some suspect, the vulnerability was built upon earlier weaknesses developed by the NSA, it offers a cautionary tale in how the backdoors and vulnerabilities we build to monitor the rest of the world can come back to haunt us in the end.

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