Watch out Cisco. Huawei’s coming!

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Huawei, six months after creating its enterprise networking division here in the U.S., is ready to make a big splash at Interop this year. The Chinese networking gear maker is the one thing Cisco’s CEO John Chambers has said he’s worried about, even as the networking world embraces software-defined networks, new protocols such as OpenFlow and even whitebox switch makers. So what does Huawei have that Chambers’ fears?

As of today, it has a powerful top of rack switch that will doubtless cost less than Cisco’s gear, and it has a distribution deal with Synnex, a huge contract manufacturers and reseller of IT gear. Basically, Huawei has launched the goods to fight Cisco (and Juniper) in the enterprise networking market and has the means to get it in the hands of customers. Huawei has shaken things up in the carrier equipment market for quite some time, precipitating consolidation and lower pricing by major vendors, as well as a rush into services. And now that change is about to break like a wave in the data center world.

However, unlike the carrier gear market, Huawei isn’t entering a staid business as a newcomer with low prices and the rumored support of the chinese government (and financing arm). Enterprise networking is a far more competitive world with a variety of companies pushing into the unified communications and video conferencing market at both the high and low end. Cisco’s at the high end with its Telepresence suites, and Skype and Logitech are at the lower end. Huawei’s bringing its high-end telepresence product to market to compete directly with Cisco’s high end telepresence products.

In the switching market, Huawei is launching a top of rack switch and a series of core networking switches that seem aimed at Cisco’s Nexus line of boxes. Huawei’s CloudEngine 12800 series of switches provide up to 48 Tbps of capacity and bandwidth of 2 Tbps per slot which is more than the current Cisco gear in both cases. Aside from the threat to Cisco, the data center networking market is undergoing several shifts, some of which will play to Huawei’s advantage.

There is the growing popularity of whitebox switch makers using merchant silicon as opposed to proprietary chips, which webscale and cloud data center operators are buying en masses according to Arista and the CEO of Pica8, another vendor aiming to provide whitebox networking gear. The scale-out players are indicative of another trend, which is the increasing scale and changes in traffic patterns among data centers. Data centers are larger and the networking is growing more complex. Thus vendors are demanding lower cost gear, such as that provides by whitebox vendors, but also eyeing the creation of software defined networks.

Thanks to these trends, most people in the networking industry expect to see huge changes taking place in the next five years. As a new player with a lower cost basis, Huawei is poised to take advantage of these trends. No wonder Chambers’ is worried.

Image courtesy of Huawei.

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