Strong IP base is critical to staying competitive in the global telecoms equipment market: William Zhao, CEO, Huawei India R&D Center

By Nandita Singh

The 75-billion-dollar Chinese ICT multi-national company, Huawei Technologies, has spent a cumulative $38 billion plus on R&D in the last decade (2005-15). Today, in 2017, Huawei has to its credit a formidable global scale value chain spanning enterprise, consumer, and carrier business, and is counted among top 50 patent holders in the US. A significant chunk of the company’s R&D is powered by Huawei’s India R&D Center, its first and by far its largest R&D establishment outside of China, currently employing 4,000 engineers.

The Center is engaged in developing products and components including telecom VAS, BSS, OSS, e-commerce, terminal device software, and cutting-edge software in the areas of big data, cloud, NFV, SDN, IoT, and storage. A year after taking charge, William Zhao, CEO – Huawei India R&D Center, in an interview with Voice&Data shares more on how the Center is powering Huawei R&D and the roadmap India Center is pursuing under his leadership.

Voice&Data: How productive is India R&D Center for Huawei in driving transformation for carriers and enterprises?

William Zhao: Established in the year 1999, in Bengaluru, the India R&D Center has evolved as a key platform/ component/ solutions development and delivery center of Huawei for global markets, and has end-to-end ownership of all software platforms, components and products being developed in this Center. Today, it has evolved to play a bigger role in the innovation journey of Huawei; create future-oriented technologies, and support the digital transformation of the society. The Center is the largest among all overseas R&D centers of Huawei and it is also the largest by any telecom vendor in India.

We believe that building a strong IP base is a core competency to ensure that the company stays competitive in the global telecoms equipment market. Huawei India R&D center has filed over 400 patent applications in the areas of NMS (Network Management System), OSS (Operations Support System), Protocols, Service Delivery Platform, Intelligent Network, IPv4, IPv6, Rich Communication Platform, Business Intelligence, IP, SDN, NFV, etc.

The India center actively participates in the telecom standardization efforts working along organizations such as IEEE, 3GPP, NGSON, ETSI and has contributed in the areas of network security, IP protocols, PCE application, etc.

It is enabled by its employee base of over 4,000 Indian engineers, out of which 3,000 are engaged in R&D and about 1,000 are part of the company’s Global Service Center.

Voice&Data: What are the research agendas Huawei India R&D would be pursuing in the coming year/s?

William Zhao: Huawei India R&D will be focusing on research in latest technologies like Real Time AI, NLP and machine learning. With the help of Real time AI and NLP we have plans to provide proactive assistant to our smartphone user using conversational technology, which can understand user and provide right assistant services on our smart devices.

In the cloud and digital transformation era we would like to work closely with customers and identify the customer challenges related to network, and work with them to find innovative solutions to overcome those challenges and pain points. For instance a focus on Network Artificial intelligence, 5G, and so on.

Also, Video is one of the strategic domain and most important to Huawei‘s Pipe Strategy. By 2020, Video will be a basic service. Huawei has developed a Unified Video Solution for multiple networks including IPTV, OTT, DVB and Web TV. India R&D team is focusing on Video quality of experience monitoring and control solutions for IPTV, OTT & WEB TV Users.

Then, in All Flash Storage-NAS, India R&D center will contribute towards meeting some of the technological challenges and then will work towards delivery of the version.

Voice&Data: What are the big data problems you are solving at Huawei R&D?

William Zhao: Huawei India R&D center in Bengaluru has identified the need of collaboration and contribution to open source years ahead and has been playing active role in executing Huawei’s Opensource strategy and contributing to open source projects in SDN, NFV, Cloud, Big data and analytics domains. Huawei India R&D center with support of strong local eco-system is driving innovations in various domains through community collaboration and co-operation.

The Center has contributed to CarbonData project which was formally incubated to Apache Software Foundation by Huawei in June 2016. Apache CarbonData is a fully indexed columnar and Hadoop native data-store for processing heavy analytical workloads and detailed queries on big data. Today, CarbonData with-in five months of incubation attracted more than 60 active contributors and user base is growing steadily and is becoming unified storage solution for big data analytics.

This is an open source project of Apache and Huawei welcomes everyone to join the community and contribute to CarbonData.

(More details of carbondata can be obtained at http://carbondata.incubator.apache.org, and https://github.com/apache/incubator-carbondata)

Voice&Data: What is happening at the Central Software Institute?

William Zhao: In big data area, today, we have responsibility for Hadoop distribution and Carbon Data and contribute to Huawei Data Pipeline service for cloud. In future, we will also be responsible for Spark distribution. This way we play a significant role in Huawei’s big data strategy.

In cloud space, we are contributing to Huawei private cloud and public cloud strategy and focusing on technical research projects and open source work in PAAS layer.

In database area, we have end to end responsibility for development of database tools and also take ownership of key modules in-memory database development. In storage, we will develop next generation All-Flash NAS software. In e-commerce, we have ownership for development of Huawei’s e-commerce platform – VMALL, for overseas web site development. We also support Huawei open source strategy very strongly from our Business Line (BL). We are today engaged in various open source communities such as Hadoop, CarbonData, Kubernetes and Mesos from our BL and contribute some important features in these communities.

Voice&Data: What are the key collaborations that you have in place with academia?

William Zhao: Huawei believes in cooperating with its peers, partners and academia to jointly create a favorable environment. Through win-win collaboration, Huawei and its partners can share the benefits of the value chain.

Huawei partners with universities and colleges around the world to transfer knowledge, promote a greater understanding of, and interest in the telecommunications sector and encourage participation in the digital community.

From the India R&D Center, we are working with leading engineering institutions such as IIIT-B and PESIT to setup Network Innovation Labs in the area of next generation networking like SDN and NFV. In the past we have successfully done joint innovation with PESIT and achieved breakthrough in PCE solutions.

Voice&Data: Can you please highlight some of the breakthrough areas in the next generation networks, routing platforms and open source – from the work at the Center?

William Zhao: In SDN we are working on ONOS Open source and Huawei Agile controller OVS protocols, working on cutting edge technologies such as PCE, NAI, Hierarchical controller, YMS research.

ONOS has become the de-facto Carrier SDN Controller in the Industry with high availability and reliability, scale and best suited for IP+Optical. Huawei’s contribution is significant to enhance ONOS with key carrier capabilities. Huawei’s BGP RR+ solution commercial solutions are deployed widely; PCECC [PCE] is a unique solution from Huawei for SDN transition for existing Network to SDN based network.

In VRP our team is working on Routing protocols, Netconf Yang and PCEP and IPSEC protocol development and research which are key technology for Virtual network solutions in 5G era.

Voice&Data: What innovation can one expect in smartphones from Huawei from India Center?

William Zhao: Our goal is to provide context aware and user-centric intelligent functional system for better user experience using machine learning; to develop solutions in AI and NLP to build next generation intelligent solutions for our end consumers.

Multi-service big data cloud platforms for right content and service recommendation. Based on user behavior and profiling, real time optimized recommendations are made through machine learning and content rendering.

Continuously enhancing end user experience is the biggest challenge we have. Based on the Voice of Customer (VoC) and Net Promotion Score (NPS) received from the end users we continuously identify the top pain points and work towards resolving them.

Delivery of new Android OS upgrades for some of our important product portfolio across the goal market gets done from India R&D. India R&D is also working closely with Android ASOP open source initiative to bring android new feature to the our customer.

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