The jargon changes, and the rhetoric can get ecstatic, but Huawei’s Cloud adventure is really just a highly elaborate way of saying “please upgrade your network”.
Which is sensible advice anyway. The logic for the Chinese giant is remorseless: if Huawei doesn’t move upscale, it’s eaten by the relentless commodification of hardware: the so-called apocalyptic “white box white wash”. That may be how Huawei got started, but it has no intention of returning to box-shifting. With over 80,000 formidable young engineers, why would it?
“The last thing we want to see is no change,” said Eric Xu, one of the three joint or “rotating” CEOs, at the company’s Connect event here in Shanghai.
So basically, Huawei is doing what it’s been doing for years, very successfully. Sell the nuts and bolts of IT and network infrastructure that a big business or a telco needs to implement an industry or telco cloud – mainly fast high bandwidth networking gear – with storage and commodity servers also available, and enlist other people to do the rest.
"We will help telecoms companies grab better business models,” explained another of Huawei’s rotators, Ken Hu, yesterday. Another exec, Huawei’s networking chief, encapsulated its strategy in four bullet points: “Do not make apps. Do not Touch Data. Make Box Simple. Make Platform Open.”
But it isn’t quite so simple. Huawei operates a cloud in China – outside China it partners to build the nuts and bolts for enterprise and telcoms clouds. So Huawei’s FusionSphere and FusionStage PaaS announced 31 new services, faster kit and faster data centre GPUs. Meaning gazillions of VMs. There are 450,000 VMs spinning, and 130 million mobile users of Huawei’s distributed files storage.
This caused a bit of confusion. But Huawei says by sticking to nuts and bolts – albeit fancier, more integrated nuts and bolts – offers telcos and big enterprises far more opportunities than using either of the big three internet cloud providers: Amazon, Microsoft or Google. You’re just another generic account on one those three internet clouds, executives stressed, in not quite those words. However Huawei understands your industry better, and has the collaboration partners needed to create value.
“Internet cloud cannot provide the on demand, low cost and fast services for on demand bandwidth,” is how Xu explained it.
"Our current strategy is to work with service providers as friends for public cloud services. We have no plan to provide public cloud outside China."
It all looks a bit hopeful on paper, but then you realise who Huawei's customers are - and where they are. Huawei’s customer base is so different in the BRICS. It has got a higher profile across a broader range of sectors, including government in emerging countries. Xu thinks (and hopes) that customers there will opt for more flexible and lower cost business clouds.
China and developing countries are two years behind the United States and Europe’s cloudmania, Xu thinks.
Partners I noted on the accompanying Expo floor ranged from Intel to SuSE. The evangelical appeals noted here are as much a plea to Huawei’s telcos to get cracking and invent some useful new services for business.
Xu said he wasn’t worried by the “white box” trend of replacing expensive kit with cheap generic kit.
“White box is not something telecom operators need. They focus more on value creation. We deliver more value to enterprises or operators. If there is no value, there is no point making an investment in those areas. On the impact [of white box] only time can tell.
As is the Chinese way, immaculate planning goes into these things. There are some 15,000 attendees at this giant event, with a developer conference drawing some 6,000. Even on a Chinese scale - where everything is gigantic - this is a big show. ®