Huawei: We’re working with HPE. HPE: No, you’re not

Huawei and HPE are having a disagreement. (Monica Alleven/FierceWireless)

Huawei announced an open architecture for SD-WANs and said that Riverbed Technologies, F5 and HPE were among the companies it was working with to develop it. The mention of HPE rapidly eclipsed news of the open architecture, however.  

The single line in Huawei’s statement referencing HPE was, “Huawei are [sic] currently working together with HPE on fully integrating SD-WAN technology to be orchestrated by an HPE Service Director using open API.”

Shortly afterward, HPE issued a terse statement: “This announcement and resulting news coverage is inaccurate. HPE does not have a partnership with Huawei to develop SD-WAN or any other technology for general market availability. As a strong supporter of open standards and interfaces, HPE works together with all major vendors on customer-specific projects.”

FierceTelecom lodged queries with both Huawei and HPE, requesting further explanation. So far, neither has responded.

Parsing HPE’s objection, it’s possible to infer that HPE works with Huawei just as it works with other vendors. It’s main objection seems to be that it has no formal technology development “partnership” with Huawei.

Huawei didn’t say the two were involved in a partnership, however, though it’s possible to see how someone else might characterize “working together” as a “partnership.” Indeed, HPE specifically pointed to misconceptions in “resulting news coverage.”

Furthermore, HPE didn’t deny it is working on a project with Huawei as Huawei described it. HPE’s statement allows the inference that the integration is on behalf of a single customer. If that were the case, then HPE would be objecting to being seen as officially contributing to an open SD-WAN architecture developed by Huawei that would be offered commercially, in contrast to simply performing some integration work.

HPE’s reaction may seem more vehement than should be merited by some third party’s mischaracterization of “working together.” But on the other hand, Huawei is becoming a pariah in the U.S.

Every time Huawei appears to have landed a business deal in the States, the agreement gets dissolved by typically unspecified national security concerns. Last week, the company acknowledged the relentless institutional opposition it faces in the U.S. and drastically cut back on its operations here.  

Despite being shut out of the U.S. market, Huawei is firmly among the leading networking equipment suppliers in the world. It’s more than just marketing muscle; Huawei has occasionally eclipsed all rivals with some of its technological achievements. But even when it can legitimately claim a technological edge, it misses out on U.S. business.

Meanwhile, the networking industry could use an open SD-WAN architecture. Indeed, last summer, MEF proposed to define one in a white paper.

SD-WANs tend to be built with open source hardware and software, but it would be a mistake to assume that makes SD-WANs themselves open. Multivendor SD-WAN integration is still problematic.

Huawei explained that an SD-WAN architecture should be open in three distinct ways:

  1. Enterprise access devices (a.k.a. customer premise equipment or CPE) must be able to make service platforms open, implement virtual network functions (VNFs) and support rapid provisioning
  2. The controller must be able to quickly interconnect with operations and business support systems (OSS/BSS) and third-party application systems
  3. The solution must be compatible with mainstream public clouds.

Huawei said it is developing its SD-WAN architecture to be open on all three of those layers. It said its “ultimate aim is to work with partners in building a cooperative and win-win ecosystem.”