Lumina Networks turns out the lights for good

Open-source SDN startup Lumina Networks has thrown in the towel, citing slower than hoped open-source adoption, thanks in part to COVID-19.

It’s unusual for major startups to just shut up shop when the going gets tough. Usually they would tap their investors for a bit more working capital or, if things got really bad, sell themselves at a discount. But it seems the investment environment for telco startups is pretty tough, so they’re forced to do it the old-fashioned way, by making money through their own operations.

When it launched almost exactly three years ago, Lumina seemed like a bright idea. It acquired some SDN controller tech from Brocade and positioned itself as the company you want on your side if you’re finding open-source software-defined networking tricky to get your head around. They did get some initial investment from Verizon and AT&T, but they presumably went off the idea.

“Our job is to be the catalyst to help service providers bring open software networking out of the lab and into their live network,” said Andrew Coward, Lumina CEO, at the time. “We started Lumina Networks to ensure providers can use open source in critical use cases. But just delivering technology is not enough. Our customers are doing the implementation with us, so they can learn and acquire the skills, tools and practices needed to develop and manage the platforms we jointly deploy.”

In announcing its demise, Lumina offered the following frank explanation: ‘Essentially, revenue continued to flow to proprietary vendors. The switch to open source did not take place at a pace anywhere close to the speed that would enable us to operate and grow our business, despite commitments from many to the contrary. We have also found that COVID-19 has actually redirected funds away from automation projects and into building-out raw infrastructure, further delaying adoption.’

We send our commiserations to Coward and his team but congratulate them on giving it a go. It looks like they might have been a bit early to the market, which is easy to say in hindsight. The concluding sentence of the announcement sums the situation up nicely. ‘Ironically, one of the benefits of open source we promoted – that it would survive us – has turned out prophetic.’

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