It is currently difficult to miss the place of Chinese comms systems company, Huawei, in the emerging and now just-about-real 5G wireless communications marketplace. It is also a player, especially in Far Eastern territories, in the provision of cloud infrastructure systems where it adds compute and storage servers to its existing comms and networking capabilities. But now, partly as a consequence of its heavy commitment to 5G, it is making a move into the world of delivering cloud services to end users.
But don’t expect to see it going head to head with the likes of Amazon, Google, Microsoft Azure or its local contender in the global cloud stakes, Alibaba. According to Paul Scanlon, the company’s Chief Technology Officer of its Carrier Business Unit, the plan is to quite deliberately avoid making such a move and instead target very specific, 5G-related market sectors.
At a recent Huawei press briefing in London, Scanlon set out where the carrier business sees its best market potential, especially as the existing 4G services have started to penetrate into at least the periphery of providing serious business service capabilities. He obviously sees significant potential in reducing the cost of B2C services to both end users and service providers, with its new small sized and low-weight antenna systems making the provision of local hub sites far easier and much lower in cost.
The move to 5G, he claims, will provide users with fibre-level capacity and services while using wireless access. Thus the cost of infrastructure investment for business customers, and the operating cost per user will be greatly reduced. In addition the time and costs required to implement services will both be much less than with installing fibre direct to each customer, greatly improving the time to revenue generation.
He even talked about seeing early experiments in the streets of the company’s home base of Schenzhen where such antenna were set on top of street lamps.
But it is the B2B revenue opportunities that are attracting much of the company’s interest however, and not just because many of them are entirely new opportunities for Huawei and its main customer base, the telco service providers. Scanlon sees these opportunities falling into six other discrete slices to add to the basic consumer sector of fixed wireless access.
These are wireless video and Safe City applications, Smart City services, Smart manufacturing, automotive applications, utilities monitoring and drone-based services.
He sees each of them having the need to drive increasing levels of data-heavy traffic from applications such as cloud-based robotics and analytics-based remote control services. Key to these will be the provision of high reliability real-time services of both high capacity and high-quality. High security will also be a given in such applications.
Providing the specific cloud services that each of these `slices’ will require is now set to become a key add-on capability. When asked about the positioning of such services, he confirmed that the goal was to provide specialist cloud services to the manufacturers and businesses that then sell their products and services through Alibaba and other mainstream online outlets.
He also confirmed that there would be a range of virtual cloud services targeting the needs of the different slices. This would require both common and sector-specific platform tools and applications running on top of an Infrastructure as a Service environment. This, in turn, will become a major opportunity for niche market channel players to come on board with Huawei to provide the applications and tools needed to service specific market sectors and their associated use-cases.
The announcements from Huawei prompt an interesting line of thought. There is now a degree of re-intermediation going on in cloud services, with opportunities opening up for specialist service providers to plug the many thousands of use case holes in the level of services that the dominant cloud services players can provide. Perhaps Microsoft Azure, with the company’s long track record of working with VARs, can currently come close to what will be needed.
But there now is plenty of scope for new businesses to enter into the marketplace to fill those holes, offering what might be termed 'Use Case as a Service' operations either as cloud services or as private cloud tools.