Huawei Analyst Summit 2017: it’s an All-Cloud world

Two weeks ago I attended Huawei’s 14th Global Analyst Summit in Shenzhen, a.k.a. ‘HAS 2017’. Over 500 industry/financial analysts and media representatives were there to hear the latest financial results and strategic orientations of the Chinese manufacturer. For this event, Huawei’s motto was ‘Go digital, go Cloud’… And while you wouldn’t necessarily expect this devise from a player at the forefront of telecom innovations (after all, the ‘Cloud’ term has been around for a few years now), that’s clearly where Huawei is heading. A single look at some of Huawei’s All-Cloud network solutions should be enough to convince you :

  • CloudRAN, for mobile access networks solutions ;
  • CloudFAN, for fixed access networks ;
  • CloudMetro, for unified metro connectivity solutions ;
  • CloudBackbone, for long distance networks ;
  • CloudOptix, for the ‘cloudification of transport networks’ (I still have to figure that one out) ;
  • CloudCampus, to bring local connectivity in multi-tenant scenarios (mostly wi-fi it seems) ;
  • CloudEPN, for local enterprise networks and connectivity ;
  • CloudFabric, for the datacenter oriented networks (relying on… CloudEngine).

Long story short, with its aptly named ‘All-Cloud’ strategy, Huawei bets the SDN and NFV trains will push telcos -and business customers- towards its cloud-enabled solutions. But Huawei doesn’t plan to venture into the Cloud world all by itself. While the company announced that it will offer public cloud services (in China only?), it also counts on partnerships with third parties to develop its offering. It is still too early to say whether Huawei’s ‘All-Cloud’ strategy will be successful, but it is definitely worth keeping an eye on how telcos welcome these announcements.

Beyond the Cloud, Huawei also discussed a subject that may appear more tangible to the fixed networks enthusiasts : the unification standards for next-generation PON. The company presented its works on a technology supporting 25 Gbps (and possibly 100 Gbps in the future) per wavelength, hoping to benefit from synergies with datacentre and Ethernet sectors to enable cost reduction for optical components. According to Huawei, the use of 25G PON upstream wavelengths could be compatible with 10G PON standards, ensuring better compatibility with the existing terminals.

If more proof was needed to show that Huawei takes very seriously the matter of diverging PON standards, the company presented its FlexPON solution, which targets telecom operators willing to offer (multi) gigabit speeds to their customers. By allowing XG PON, XGS PON, and TWDM PON cards to be plugged in the same chassis, the solution brings flexibility to telcos willing to avoid any wrong step regarding PON standards. Some players would certainly have loved such flexibility after going for BPON some years ago… But this flexibility comes at a cost, which was estimated by the Huawei spokeperson at 10% extra.

SK Broadband has already started deploying the FlexPON technology on its network, which shows that limiting the risks linked to the uncertainty of PON standards does answer the concerns of some telcos. The window of opportunity for the FlexPON technology seems however short at this point (2 years?), as the industry will one way or another privilege a single standard, at least within a given market. In this regard, Huawei’s goal could rather be to get a foot in the door of new telcos rather than generate significant revenue. In the short term, the success of this strategy will strongly rely on whether the demand of customers for gigabit connectivity is sufficient to require short-term investment from operators.