Huawei to build global cloud with bit barns run by different operators

They'll all look and behave the same, but you won't get one console to rule them all

Huawei's going to stitch together a global cloud based on its cut of OpenStack. It will consist of a patchwork of Huawei-built clouds that the firm itself runs, and Huawei clouds that are run by telcos.

The company announced its cloudy ambitions a couple of weeks ago when rotating CEO Eric Xu* told its annual analysts conference “We would like to build a Huawei public cloud family. This family will include public cloud(s) independently operated by Huawei, and public clouds developed with telcos, where we combine telco strengths with our own to tap into the public cloud market.”

We've been asking the company what that means ever since, and after a bit of back-and-forth have established that Huawei's plan starts with the creation of a cloud platform, after which the firm seeks partners to build clouds that run it.

Huawei is already some way down the road with that part of the plan. On the software front it has built “FusionSphere”, a cut of OpenStack. It's also created “FusionStage”, an enterprise platform-as-a-service product built on Docker and Kubernetes.

On the partnership front it has worked with Deutsche Telecom, Telefonica and Orange to build their respective public cloud offerings. In China, meanwhile, Huawei runs its own-branded public cloud.

Now the company plans to offer FusionSphere and FusionStage to anyone who wants it. The quest for that “anyone” is going to start with telcos, especially in developing nations where Huawei has done very well with carriers. Huawei has good, well-priced kit that telcos around the world appreciate. It's also shown up in person and in force before other telco players made much of a direct effort.

In other markets Huawei reserves the right to build and run its own public clouds. It's not clear if there are criteria Huawei will use to determine when it will operate a cloud itself and when it will back a local. Or if it will do both and, if so, in what order it will go direct and work with partners.

What is clear, as a company spokesperson told The Register, is that all Huawei-powered clouds offer “... unified APIs and allow customers to migrate services smoothly. With these features, Huawei public cloud services form a unified One-cloud network worldwide, which helps customers to implement digital transformation.”

But The Register understands that while all those clouds will be homogeneous, you'll need accounts and management for each. So forget about the kind of portals offered by the likes of AWS, Google, Microsoft and BlueMix in which you can pick a location for a workload. Instead, get ready to work with multiple cloud operators, all of which will have the same platform but operate alone.

Why would anyone do that when they can have one management console? Analysts who attended Huawei's event opined to The Register that this plan may well see clouds built in nations that the big four cloud operators won't touch for years, which will make those clouds attractive to local users concerned about latency and/or data domiciling regulations.

Global companies with the same concerns may also appreciate the chance to work across local clouds that behave identically. Consider Russia's insistence that personal data reside on its soil, as a SaaS vendor wanting to do business in Putinstan could therefore like the idea of targeting one platform – FusionSphere – that runs in Russian cloud and in other clouds that also have privacy regulations.

Another wrinkle in the plan is that telco clouds seldom, if ever, do well, as carriers tend not to be great at customer service and struggle to go beyond carriage services.

One model that does offer hope to Huawei is VMware's vCloud Air Network, which sees carriers, system integrators and managed services providers run vSphere-powered clouds mostly targeting local markets. VMware's own cloud may have failed, but the vCloud Air network has more than 4,000 members. ®

*Huawei has three CEOs, each of which helm the company for six months and then give the next-in-line a turn. The other two CEOs are Mr Guo Ping, who currently serves as CEO and will do so until September 30, 2017, and Mr Hu Houkun, who can be expected to re-take the big chair in October 2017.

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