Huawei has hit the headlines in recent months as continual questions of links with the Chinese government persist without convincing answers. As a result, the firm is struggling in the US market and poses no threat to the well-established networking vendors on its shores.
This was the belief of Chris Crowell, president and CEO of Boston-based network company Enterasys.
During a meeting with the company at its headquarters, a number of the Enterasys executive team scoffed at the idea that Huawei would prove competition for them, despite the billions it puts into R&D and its push to globalise its business.
Discussing Huawei’s position in his home country, Crowell said: “I think so far in the US they have been rejected by the US government and I think that is a big driver. Maybe it is a fear.
“This is data networking. Every critical piece of information passes over the data network. It is not like televisions or air conditioning, this is critical data for a business and I think that is a concern.”
Trust, fear and risk
Crowell admitted he didn’t know if it was “a real concern” and if Huawei was able to pass any information back to the Chinese government – as is feared by some of its critics – but he said, when it came to something as imperative as networking, he was unsurprised people were careful about whose hands they put their data in.
“If you put your data network into the hands of someone else, that puts your business at risk and, certainly from a government perspective, you would want to make sure that your investment in your critical data infrastructure would be with a trusted partner.”
So, with Huawei, it all came down to a matter of trust.
“You have to trust the vendor and obviously the source of where that is coming from,” continued Crowell. “That doesn’t mean anyone is untrustworthy, it is just you have to have that trust because your data is passing across.
“That doesn’t mean we as vendors would put something in there that would be able to see your data, but you own the code and the hardware where that data is passing over and people, whether that is right or wrong, think that creates a risk.”
Crowell admitted the network was more transparent than ever, with a growing number of stories in the press about the likes of the National Security Agency's (NSA) Prism surveillance programme and the fact that many people are more tech-savvy than before.
“It is talked about more, the tech is there, the government can listen and does decode,” he said. “The potential is there, but the question mark is, will it be abused by any one government and is there a tie between any vendor and a government?”
Yet, while Crowell does not fear for his business in the US, he admitted there was more openness to suppliers such as Huawei in Europe. Crowell said Europe could become a keen battleground for networking companies to make their global mark.
“In Europe… we see a lot more Huawei,” he said. “Obviously in Asia Pacific you would see that, but in Europe you see certain businesses that consider every vendor. There are still other businesses that don’t consider them flat out, whether that be because of market share or country of manufacturing or whatever, but I would say in Europe we probably compete with more players.”