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Huawei to virtual world: Give us your desktops and no-one gets hurt

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Huawei's ambitions in the virtualisation market centre on desktop virtualisation and network function virtualisation for telcos, according to the company's CTO for data centre solutions Ron Raffensperger.

The Chinese company was this year's only new entrant to Gartner's Magic Quadrant for x86 virtualisation, a position that the analyst firm said reflects strong growth in its home nation and other developing economies.

Raffensperger agrees with that assessment, telling The Register that emerging markets are keen to move from PCs to lower-cost devices. That opportunity to offer a desktop virtualisation (VDI) rig presents plenty of opportunities, and the fact that Huawei runs 100,000 desktops in that mode using its own software doesn't hurt when the time comes to demonstrate proof of concept.

Huawei's cloudy suite is called FusionSphere and is based on the open source Xen hypervisor, which Raffensperger said Huawei has modified extensively to make it more secure, scalable and reliable.

“It does not bear much resemblance to Xen,” he said.

Huawei has tweaked the software heavily because the opportunity that got it interested in virtualisation was carriers' interest in network function virtualisation (NFV), the practice of putting more intelligence in the network core instead of in premises equipment. Delivering NFV often means running virtual machines to drive subscribers' desired applications. As carriers typically have a great many customers, Huawei's move into virtualisation therefore needed more scale than it felt Xen could deliver in unaltered form.

Which is not to say the company is interested only in VDI and carriers. Raffensperger said Huawei is now also in the business of selling server virtualisation to anyone, anytime, and can put resources in the places its partners want to take FusionSphere to market. He also feels the company's best chances to succeed will come in nations that aren't currently very virtualised and therefore offer greenfield opportunities where VMware and Microsoft aren't present. Within those markets, industries like government and media look especially juicy, the latter thanks to broadcasters' rapid moves into digital production.

Huawei also has half an eye on the hybrid cloud market, and is contemplating software Raffensperger said would see “a distributed cloud data centre where you have the ability to move workloads between multiple physical data centres that look like a logical data centres.” The CTO feels that arrangement could span private and public clouds.

If such a product were to eventuate, Huawei would be in direct competition with VMware and Microsoft. For now, however, it is trying to be open. Raffensperger said he feels participation in OpenStack is important to the company's ambitions and that despite offering its own servers, networking and storage Huawei intends to make sure its software is validated to run with top-tier hardware providers like EMC, HP and Cisco.

But Huawei is also ambitious. “As we looked at the enterprise businesses, we decided we do not want to be just pushing boxes,” Raffensperger said. “There's a need for virtualisation in a lot of the markets where we have opportunities.” ®

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