microsoft today announced that it acquired Lumenisity, a UK-based startup developing “hollow core fiber (HCF)” technologies primarily for data centers and ISPs. Microsoft says the purchase, terms of which have not been disclosed, will be extended [its] ability to further optimize its global cloud infrastructure” and “serve Microsoft’s cloud platform and service customers with strict latency and security requirements.”
HCF cables essentially combine fiber and coaxial cable. They’ve been around since the 90s, but what Lumenisity brings to the table is a proprietary design featuring an air-filled center channel surrounded by a ring of glass tubes. The idea is that light can travel faster through air than through glass; in a trial with Comcast in April, a single strand of Lumenisity HCF was reportedly capable of delivering traffic speeds ranging from 10 Gbps to 400 Gbps.
“HCF can provide benefits across a wide range of industries, including healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, retail, and government,” Girish Bablani, CVP of Microsoft’s Azure Core business, wrote in a blog post. “For the public sector, HCF can provide enhanced security and intrusion detection for federal and local governments around the world. In healthcare, because HCF can accommodate the size and volume of large datasets, it can help accelerate the retrieval of medical images, making it easier for providers to ingest, store and share medical imaging data in the cloud. And with the rise of the digital economy, HCF could help international financial institutions seek fast, secure transactions across a broad geographic region.”
Lumenisity was established in 2017 as a spin-off from the Optoelectronics Research Center at the University of Southampton to commercialize HCF research. Prior to the acquisition, the startup raised £12.5 million (~$15.35 million) in funding in several funding rounds from investors, including the Business Growth Fund and Parkwalk Advisors.
Lumenisity claims its fibers are deployed in customer networks “with the longest spans ever reported using HCF technology.” Alongside Comcast, UK operator BT recently tested Lumenisity’s technology, which BT claimed at the time had the potential to reduce latency by up to 50% compared to traditional fiber. Infrastructure company euNetworks Fiber UK Limited is also testing Lumenisity cable for the London Stock Exchange.
Earlier this month, Lumenisity completed construction of a 40,000-square-foot HCF manufacturing facility in Romsey, UK, which the company says will enable “scaled-up” production of its HCF technology in the future.
“This is the end of the beginning and we are excited to begin our new chapter as part of Microsoft to unlock the full potential of this technology and continue our pursuit of unlocking new possibilities in communications networks,” Lumenisity wrote in a statement on its website. “We are proud to have been acquired by a company with a shared vision that will accelerate our progress in the hollowcore space.”