Elenion unveiled as a silicon photonics PIC company

• The company has been active for two and a half years and has products already deployed
• A privately-owned silicon photonics company that is already shipping products has dropped its state of secrecy to announce itself. Elenion Technologies is owned by Marlin Equity Partners, the investment firm that also owns systems vendor, Coriant.

“We are in the [optical] engine business,” says Larry Schwerin, CEO of Elenion Technologies. “We are developing a platform leveraging silicon photonics but we have other capabilities.”Elenion’s expertise includes indium phosphide, radio frequency integrated circuits (RFICs), packaging, and driver and control electronics circuit design. The RFIC expertise suggests the company also plans to address the mobility market.The company will detail its first products prior to the OFC show next March.

Telecom and Datacom

Elenion’s initial focus is the telecom market where its products are already deployed, with Coriant being a likely early customer. “We are also very active in datacom which has a different set of requirements,” says Schwerin.

Telecom is the harder ‘trade space‘ of the two segments, says Schwerin. Telecom designs have to be outside-plant hardened and Telcordia-compliant. “Proving that world is a good place to get started and focussed,” he says.

In contrast, the datacom market has shorter equipment life cycles with optical designs deployed in a more controlled environment. Datacom customers also don’t just want pluggables. “They want on-board solutions, parallel solutions, and they request a cost of $1-per-gigabit,” says Schwerin.

The company is targeting optical module makers, systems vendors and the cloud operators.

The challenges facing the large-scale data centre operators are multifold: how they drive more bandwidth to the server, how they make the server more effective, how they scale their switching fabric, how they better use their fibre infrastructure and how they meet their optics cost targets.

Elenion says it has detailed data on the construction and costs of data centres and how they will scale. “You need to have that expertise in order to design the platform that they are trying to do and going forward,” says Schwerin. The company is working to deliver an optical engine that will help the data centre operators address the issues of distance, power consumption, space and signal integrity, and which will meet their $1-per-gigabit cost target.


Elenion is limited in what it can say until its first products are unveiled. What is clear is that the silicon photonics company has a photonic integrated circuit (PIC) capability that it is using for on-board optics and for pluggable designs such as the CFP2.

“We have developed a set of tools and a set of expertise that lets us design very complex integrated opto-electronic systems at the chip scale,” says Michael Hochberg, CTO of Elenion.

According to Hochberg, Elenion is pulling complexity out of other systems and putting it into silicon. The value of such PICs is that it avoids having to deploy discrete optics such as lenses. And silicon is the ideal platform for scaling complexity, says Hochberg: “All the areas that we have developed expertise are things that we believe will need to be co-designed with the PIC.”

In the electronics industry, you tape things out and you expect them to work. That is what we are replicating here.

The company says it is building up a capability that has long existed in the semiconductor industry. “In the electronics industry, you tape things out and you expect them to work,” says Hochberg. “That is what we are replicating here.”

For datacom applications, Schwerin says that in addition to the PIC’s function, the company has developed a wafer-scale approach to packaging. Here, devices are packaged while still on the wafer rather than having to dice the wafer first. “You have got to get into the volumes of millions, not tens or hundreds of thousands,” says Schwerin. “That forces you into that space.”

The company is targeting optical module makers, systems vendors and the cloud operators as customers.


Schwerin was formerly the CEO of Capella Intelligent Subsystems, a developer of wavelength-selective switch technology, that was sold to Alcatel-Lucent (now Nokia) in 2013.Hochberg was a director at the Optoelectronic Systems in Silicon (OpSIS) foundry and was a co-founder of silicon photonics company, Luxtera.

The two first met at a conference when Hochberg was running Silicon Lightwave Services (SLS), a silicon photonics design-for-service company. Schwerin became CEO of SLS and the company was bought by Merlin two and a half years ago to become Elenion. The name Elenion means starlight, a nod to J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels.“We are now introducing ourselves as we are getting enough requests that it seemed the appropriate time,” says Schwerin.