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Huawei set to spin up Big Data R&D facility in France

Parisian brains trust will help Chinese firm extend its grasp on Europe's networking future

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Huawei is ramping up its data science research operation with a facility in Paris as it pushes further up the technology stack.

Renato Lombardi, Huawei’s veep of European R&D, said the effort was part of the firm’s drive to increase its focus on the I in ICT, rather than its pure comms roots.

The China-based vendor has been scaling up its R&D in Europe. Lombardi said it currently stands at 900 as of April. However this is just a patch on the firm’s total R&D workforce of around 80,000.

Lombardo said the firm was deeply involved with the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program, participating in 13 of the 20 tech related programs covered by the mega Euro scheme. He described big data as “a big area for us... not only applications but all the technologies that make big data.”

The scientists at the Paris facility will be working on, amongst other things, algorithms to underpin the storage and handling of big data.

The vendor announced a partnership with data scientists at London’s Imperial College earlier this year. It has also been increasingly pushing into storage. This begs the question of how far Huawei is pushing itself beyond its roots in comms and into the broader ICT services space. Lombardo did not exactly rush to deflect this question or emphasise the vendor’s carrier networking heritage.

He said that the firm’s roots were obviously in comms - the C and T in ICT - but the firm had to focus more on the I. Looked at another way, the shift to the cloud blurs the lines between networking between datacentres and within datacentres, and between different layers of the tech stack.

“This is the reason we call it ICT, not just CT.”

While “CT is the core of Huawei,” Lombardi continued, “We are moving more and more to the I part in ICT.”

This was inevitable as the hardware elements of the network and data infrastructure become ever more commoditised, pushing the defining role of software to the fore, he added.

This blurring will become even more pronounced with the shift to 5G, a key part of the 2020 program. “For the European Union, 5G is not only mobile,” said Lombardi. “It’s the future network.”

The onset of 5G around 2020 will, depending who you believe, see barriers between fixed and wireless networks breaking down, sensors and other IoT devices spewing out data, and connected and even driverless cars clogging up the information superhighway.

So, it’s perhaps inevitable that companies up and down the technology stack are already positioning themselves to leap from one layer to another. One of the joys of covering any big generational technological shift is seeing which players fail to complete those death-defying leaps, plunging back into the abyss.

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