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Hidden dragon Huawei: 'We’re making increased efforts at transparency'

Can the telecoms kit maker make it big in biz IT?

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UK.gov CIO-turned-Huawei-man: A 'systemic change' is coming

Convincing risk-averse CIOs of the safety and security of its kit will be an on-going issue, although Huawei has a big hitter on its team in recruiting former UK government CIO John Suffolk as its global cyber security officer.

It doesn’t help either that stories of security vulnerabilities in USB modems, routers and other kit emerge from time to time, especially when the firm is criticised for its poor incident response capabilities. To be fair, Suffolk has promised “systemic change” within Huawei, so something is being done, but in the meantime any security problems will reinforce the negative perceptions of the biz which perhaps some of its global rivals have not faced on the same scale.

Huawei's corporate controller CT Johnson also made efforts at the analyst summit to reassure enterprise customers across the globe that the firm is also trying to answer criticism, especially from US lawmakers, that its opaque corporate governance makes it difficult to determine what role if any the Chinese government plays behind the scenes.

“Being a vendor of network infrastructure means people outside of Huawei want to know what’s going on inside Huawei,” he said. So we’re making increased efforts at transparency and openness…It’s something you’ll see more of going forward.”

Compliance, security and regulatory woes aside, however, IDC’s Song claimed Huawei needs greater clarity in its enterprise product portfolio, and around which offerings are home-grown Huawei products and which are the result of partnerships, as per the Symantec JV.

“The story it’s trying to push is still a work in progress and the solutions are a little confusing, in the naming and overall message they want to deliver to clients,” he said. “Huawei is also very hardware-centric in its messaging. It needs to attach multiples to the hardware it sells through consulting, services and maintenance. The dynamic of the datacentre is changing and hardware margins are getting thinner and thinner.”

As to whether Huawei can do the unthinkable and achieve market-leading success in consumer, carrier and enterprise segments, even Eric Xu admitted in his keynote it will be a challenge, if not a downright “miracle”.

Forrester’s Wang claimed enterprise customers will be the key to achieving this miracle, arguing that Huawei still needs to put more effort into making its channel programs more attractive, as well as "localising" expertise, and improving its vertical capabilities – something it has traditionally not had to do with a carrier business legacy.

IDC’s Song added that there was a “healthy level of scepticism” amongst the analysts attending in Shenzhen this week of Huawei achieving a 45 per cent CAGR in its enterprise business.

“The technology is sound and the enterprise business is barely two years old. IBM and Cisco were not as prolific when they were at this stage,” he said.

“But the ICT market itself is growing at only 4-5 per cent. Huawei has to be the number 2 or 3 player in almost all the product markets it plays in. The challenge here is how does Huawei get customers to switch from Cisco, EMC or HP. Pricing play, yes. But what else?” ®

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