Growth by acquisition is a perfectly sensible strategy; neither IBM nor Oracle would be what they are today without an open-wallet buyout binge or two. Smaller players like TTM Technologies (Nasdaq: TTMI) prove that you can grow by leaps and bounds by doubling in size through acquisitions -- without turning profits into losses in the process.

But I guess CIENA (Nasdaq: CIEN) didn't get the memo. Third-quarter sales took a 136% year-over-year leap to $390 million, and 56% of total revenue came from the recently closed buyout of Nortel's metro Ethernet networks. With economies of scale come cost savings and stronger earnings, right? Not this time, at least not yet. The year-ago period's $0.05 of non-GAAP losses per share nearly doubled to $0.09 per share. In spite of management talking up how smoothly the integration is going, this merger of equals is painful.

I'd be happy to cut CIENA some slack until the whole affair is properly sorted out, but this is a particularly bad time to be off your game for any reason. CIENA's bread and butter is providing a range of products and services to telecom operators, and that business looks set to explode over the next year or two as AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon (NYSE: VZ), and Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR) all build out their next-generation LTE and WiMax wireless networks. If CIENA loses out on this bonanza because its customers are wary of buying from a company in transition, it'll be another four or five years before the next big-time upgrade cycle rolls around.

Nortel may help CIENA in the long run, but will the company make it that far without being chopped up and sold for parts itself? I'm not so sure. Share your thoughts on this matter in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. TTM Technologies is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Fool owns shares of Oracle. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.