Deploying technologies in today’s data centers generally requires enterprises to first buy, lease, or subscribe to the ones they need. Once acquired, the responsibility to effectively manage and utilize them falls to the enterprise.
However, Huawei no longer views this model as the future of data center management. Rather, its growing technology portfolio combines to facilitate a data center as a computer model. This model changes how enterprises perform data center management and often better positions them to meet future challenges.
Huawei’s IDI Forum 2023 in Munich
About two months ago in mid-May 2023, I had the opportunity to attend Huawei’s Innovative Data Infrastructure (IDI) Forum in Munich, Germany. This was my both first time attending a Huawei-sponsored event and visiting Munich, Germany.
While my time spent in Munich was by necessity brief, I had ample opportunity to do a deep dive into Huawei’s storage portfolio. During this deep dive, I saw firsthand one of the most comprehensive implementations of data center management.
The space here does not permit me to fully share everything I learned while in attendance. However, here were my two main takeaways from the event though you can listen to some of my other observations in this video.
Takeaway #1: Huawei Facilitating Enterprise Adoption of the “Data Center as a Computer” Model
The “data center as a computer” concept largely only exists in textbooks or with hyperscalers. Many if not all of today’s data centers follow a model of an application or applications running on dedicated hardware and software. The “data center of a computer” model uses underlying hardware and system software that may be shared between all applications. A common systems management layer facilitates the allocation and sharing of these data center resources.
Few enterprises have adopted this data center as a computer model due to the high level of difficulty associated with implementing it. Instead, they procure and manage available technologies essentially as silos for each application or workload.
Huawei changes this conversation. Many already know that Huawei owns a wide breadth of technologies. While impressive, its implementation of how it facilitates operational and technical management across all of them currently far exceeds what any of its traditional data center competitors offers.
For instance, across all its storage systems, Huawei uses the same OceanOS operating system. All these storage systems offer and support the same features. Further, Huawei also uses the same operating system in its cloud. To the best of my knowledge, Huawei represents the only storage provider where one may potentially learn one skill set to manage all its storage to include its cloud storage.
Takeaway #2: Optical May be the Future of Disk
I had multiple meetings with Ken Chilton, CTO of Huawei Data Storage, who at one point asked me, “What do you think of optical?” While somewhat puzzled by the question, I nonetheless responded that I thought optical has a future if someone makes an investment in it.
He and I then spent multiple hours reviewing the significant investment that Huawei is making in optical. Enterprises currently need a more well-performing, cost-effective, and energy-efficient storage media than disk. Flash performs well and conserves energy but costs too much for many use cases. Tape checks the cost-effective and energy-efficient boxes but does not perform well for random-access.
Huawei views optical media as being the replacement for disk. It checks the cost-effective and energy-efficient boxes and performs sufficiently well to serve as a suitable replacement for disk. Further, optical better meets the demands of Huawei’s international clients who want better answers for data immutability.
In its showcase area at the IDI forum, Huawei displayed its forthcoming optical library. It plans to formally release this library in the next 12 months and probably yet in 2023.
More importantly, Huawei internally has made significant investments in optical technology itself to improve future optical capacities and performance. Huawei plans to manufacture optical platters to meet what it hopes will be a new, growing global demand for this media.
Huawei a Global Powerhouse
I must admit. I had some trepidation about attending Huawei’s IDI Forum in Munich. While Huawei’s storage technologies have fared well for many years in DCIG’s various reports, I had doubts about how well Huawei was perceived globally.
What I discovered was enterprises operating outside of the United States had fewer reservations about using Huawei’s products than American companies. If anything, I found attendees from outside of the US had as many reservations about using US technologies as using those available from Huawei.
While this may be an oversimplification, many non-governmental enterprises seem resigned to technology companies including features in their products that may “spy” on them. They must then determine if any of that spying will capture data they care about or will harm them. Further, they also believe they can implement steps to stop that data from leaking out of their company.
Huawei Caught Me by Surprise
All in all, Huawei caught me by surprise. I did not expect such a robust technology solution from a provider that many in the US view as taboo. While some of those concerns may be justified, it also left me wondering what US enterprises are missing out on from a technology perspective.
Based on what I saw, enterprises outside the US that use Huawei’s technologies have gotten a leg up from a technology perspective on US enterprises who refuse to even consider Huawei as a possibility.
This leg up technology-wise may become even more pronounced should enterprises operating outside the US fully embrace and deploy Huawei’s data center as a computer model. Now becoming available as an off-the-shelf offering from Huawei, if managed appropriately it provides them with a definitive competitive advantage from an IT perspective.