Huawei’s cloud computing ambitions

I was recently in China, visiting Gartner clients and prospects in Beijing and Shanghai, and attending Huawei’s analyst summit.

Why Huawei? I am an analyst covering services, after all, not equipment. But the hardware and software vendors that enable the cloud — the entirety of the ecosystem, so to speak — has become more and more important to my coverage, particularly as service providers try to figure out what technology they should use in their cloud. And so, when Huawei extended an invitation to come hear about their plans in cloud computing, I agreed to go fly halfway around the world to listen.

For those of you who are not acquainted with Huawei, they’re a roughly $23B networking equipment manufacturer — the largest supplier of telecom operator gear in the world, having recently suprassed Ericsson for that position.

At their analyst summit, Huawei announced a number of grand ambitions — to become one of the major global device manufacturers (Huawei’s phones and tablets are based on Android), to aggressively grow into the enterprise networking equipment business, and to become an all-in-one solutions provider for cloud computing. That includes Huawei’s product portfolio of modular and container-based data center solutions, servers, storage (via the Huawei-Symantec JV), data center and wide-area networking equipment, and the “cloud stack” of software needed to offer cloud IaaS, whether for an enterprise building a private cloud, or a service provider building a highly scalable public cloud. It also includes a suite of content delivery network (CDN) enablement solutions, targeted at network operators, and integrated into the cloud offering.

This is obviously a grandly ambitious plan, considering that it comes from a vendor that most non-carriers have never heard of, and which faces considerable prejudice in the United Sates. (Huawei recently got into a kerfuffle over its acquisition of the assets of 3Leaf Systems — the US government recently recommended rejecting their buying the patent portfolio and hiring some people out of a defunct Silicon Valley start-up with no customers to speak of, on national security grounds, a ridiculous tempest in a teapot if there ever was one.)

Huawei will join HP, IBM, Dell, and the VCE coalition, among others, in competing to deliver turnkey cloud infrastructure solutions. The product portfolio they claim to have, and the product portfolio they’re developing, are all highly ambitious and R&D-driven, although I believe that the technical problems that Huawei is tackling are genuinely difficult and therefore due caution needs to be exercised, as there is no proof that Huawei’s cloud technology scales as claimed.

Huawei will also face a significant barrier in the United States, given the political climate and suspicions about Huawei’s ties to the Chinese government, particularly the military and state security apparatus. This gets us back to the demand of cloud customers to know the underlying components of their solutions. If a service provider chooses to build on Huawei’s technology, will customers trust the solution?

Still, it’s an interesting entry into the cloud-building market from what to me, at least, was an unexpected quarter, and Huawei will clearly be a company to watch going forward — they have a track record of aggressive revenue growth, and plenty of money to throw at R&D.

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Posted on April 29, 2011, in Infrastructure and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. You do know that Huawei got into business by blatantly stealing, lock stock and barrel, Cisco router hardware and software designs? They have a dirty past, tangible evidence to support distrust.

  2. The disposition of this can be read about at http://www.lightreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=56939 — it was agreed that it was individual developers who did this, and not a Huawei corporate directive.

    I do think that many of the issues that we’re seeing coming out of China these days are fairly similar to the issues we saw in the US during the robber-baron days when we had unfettered capitalism, no government regulation, little in the way of intellectual property protections, and limited incentives for individuals to behave ethically.

  3. With Huawei throwing equipments at clients for discounts as much as 80%, I wouldn’t be surprised at Huawei generating significant traction for it’s cloud ambitions.

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