Huawei Challenges Cisco With New Switches for SDN, BYOD

Company officials say the new S12700 Series switches will be as easy to program as apps on smartphones.

Huawei Technologies is looking to muscle in on the U.S. networking market dominated by Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard, and is unveiling a network switch line that is designed to be easily programmable and upgradable.

Huawei officials on Aug. 8 introduced the S12700 series of switches, which are aimed at campus networks and built to address trends that are rapidly changing data center infrastructures, including cloud computing, bring-your-own-device (BYOD), software-defined networks (SDNs) and big data.

The move also is part of the Chinese company's larger move into the U.S. technology space, even as government officials continue to balk at the idea of Huawei networking technology being used in sensitive environments, including wireless carrier infrastructures.

"The inevitable trends of broadband services, multimedia, mobility and social networking are shifting the focus of networks from technologies and devices to services, users and experiences," William Xu, CEO of Huawei Enterprise Business Group, said in a statement. "Huawei is committed to customer-centric innovation and open collaboration with the industry, and leveraging our 10 years' experience in enhancing IP network capabilities to best meet the needs of our customers."

Xu told Bloomberg that the S12700 switches will be programmable by software and be four times as fast as hardware-based switches in being updated. The switches will be upgradable in the same fashion as apps on a smartphone, with automatic network deployment and management capabilities.

The switches will be generally available in October.

Software-based programming is a foundation of the burgeoning SDN trend, which promises a more scalable, flexible and cost-effective network that can better meet the demands of data centers dealing with BYOD, cloud computing and other trends. Most top-tier vendors are filling out their broad SDN strategies, such as Cisco's Open Network Environment (ONE), while a growing number of startups, from Big Switch Technologies to Embrane to Cyan, are looking to address particular areas of SDN.

SDN is in the early stages, but industry observers expect it to take off. IDC analysts are expecting revenues in the market to hit $3.7 billion by 2016.

Huawei is trying to make inroads into a switch sector that is dominated by Cisco, which owns more than 60 percent of the market share, and has established players such as Hewlett-Packard and Juniper Networks running behind in the distance. Huawei, which is well-established in China and other overseas markets, reportedly holds about 2 percent market share.

In 2011, company officials established the Huawei Enterprise USA unit to gain some traction here, not only in the networking space, but also for other products, including storage systems, software, smartphones and other mobile devices.

"There is a big window [of opportunity] for Huawei in the U.S.," Jane Li, chief operating officer of Huawei Enterprise USA, told eWEEK in May. "Companies are looking for true options in networking that they have not had in years."

Cisco CEO John Chambers last year said Huawei was going to be a more significant rival to his company than HP or Juniper, though he complained that the company does not always "play by the rules."

Huawei and other Chinese-based companies, such as ZTE, also have run into trouble with U.S. lawmakers, who have said the vendors pose national security threats due to their close ties to the Chinese government. U.S. officials have cautioned U.S. carriers about using equipment from Huawei and ZTE in their networks. Both companies have pushed back at U.S. security concerns.