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September 19, 2014

Q&A with Huawei’s CTO for IT solutions

Ron Raffensperger talks cloud, big data, and Uber taxis.

By Ben Sullivan

Walking around Huawei’s Cloud Congress in Shanghai this year, it was hard to go a few minutes without seeing the word ‘FusionInsight’ somewhere. The new platform is Huawei’s effort at big data; a ‘massive data’ processing engine and a ‘real-time’ data processing engine.

Having already seen commercial viability in Huawei’s home market of China with banking institutions such as China Construction Bank and China Merchants Bank, Huawei is now lining up the product for overseas expansion. Huawei’s enterprise arm jumped 32.4% from 2012 to 2013, totalling a sales revenue of $2.5bn.

Big Data is argued to be increasingly vital to businesses as the information they hold on customers can provide a deep insight into user behaviour, therefore creating new business opportunities. Combined with cloud computing, real-time processing and decision making is changing the face of how customer data is used, and even creating new ways customer data is used.

CBR sat down with Ron Raffensperger, CTO IT solutions at Huawei, to ask a couple of key questions about the implications of cloud and big data.

An introduction…

"One of the things that Huawei is very focused on is this whole concept of open. One of things that I think the keynotes made clear yesterday is our commitment to OpenStack as a way to create that open environment.

"Virtualisation vendors are committed to OpenStack. More importantly, from a customer standpoint, if you look at the major customers, the large enterprises [working with] the telco operators are demanding the open infrastructure. With Huawei we have a very strong focus around the carriers because of our historic background.

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"Everything is becoming cloud. A telco network is going to use the same virtualisation concepts that enterprises are using, so it’s very important for Huawei to master this area of cloud computing…to be able to meet the needs of our new customers and enterprises but also meet the needs of the telcos."

How is Big Data important?

"There’s got to be value in big data, that’s where our big data platform that we’ve called FusionInsight begins to play into this. Huawei has its fingers in all these different things. The transmission of huge amounts of data means that we have to be able to be able to store it and process it."

How much data are people willing to trade for services?

"I think people have shown an amazing willingness to turn over private data for some sort of service that I certainly wouldn’t have expected. That doesn’t have to do with us but what people are willing to turn over to the ;’Facebooks’ and other cloud-based systems is always a surprise.

"Huawei forecasts that by 2025, there will be 100 billion connected devices. Will there be the infrastructure in place ready for that?

"I guess what we’re saying is that we believe by 2025 there will be that many connected devices. The challenge for all of us – for the vendors and for the communication service providers – is to be ready to be able to support that.

"As a vendor, if we focus on being able to help the service providers meet that goal we’ll be okay. We don’t want to the the drag that keeps them from being able to support what’s going to happen.

"Service providers cant tell Google to ‘go kill off that Nest division, your thermostats are sending too much information to the network’. The service providers have to figure out how to deal with it."

How are future cloud and big data technologies going to affect mobility?

"The impacts [will be seen] more in the apps you use on your smartphones – they will get easier to use. If you look at the challenge to get here this morning, during rush hour in Shanghai, it was to find a taxi.

"So there’s an app I get on my smartphone that will allow me to ask for a taxi and that app is getting smarter and smarter but it still needs a lot of manual intervention. So this particular app’s philosophy is that it puts a message out to lots and lots of taxis and I can kind of bid. I say: ‘I’ll pay you 10 Yuan more than your standard fee if you can show up on time’. And that message goes out to way too many taxis.

"As big data gets more usage it can not only look at which taxis are not very far away but also which have a history of accepting these certain kinds of requests. It can reduce the chatter.

"Uber is a good example of a platform that uses big data. The earlier Uber systems blasted messages out to everyone in a geographical area, but over time it’s getting smarter and smarter about which drivers will accept certain passengers to certain places, at certain times of the day. So the experience the user gets becomes more and more natural. Then the app developers get more revenue because more people use their apps."

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