In 1997, a brilliant engineer named Simon Cao had a unique insight. An expert at manipulating light, Simon conceived of a new way to cut the spacing between wavelengths in a dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM) optical transmission system from the current state-of-the-art of 100 GHz to 50GHz. This doubled the information carrying capacity of the optical fibers around the globe at a time when the Internet backbone was struggling to meet burgeoning demand. With seed financing from Sequoia Capital, Simon founded Avanex to commercialize his “interleaving filter”. An aggressive revenue ramp powered by large scale deployments at MCI, AT&T, and Verizon powered Avanex to a successful public offering under the ticker symbol AVNX.

In late April 2009 the Bookham and Avanex Corporations announced that they had merged, creating what they hoped would be one of the largest suppliers of optical components, modules and subsystems for telecommunications. The newly combined company was named Oclaro.