2006年08月01日

  导读:华为以开放的姿态对待国外客户以及媒体人士,通过面对面交流改善国际形象。Heavy Reading首席分析师Scott Clavenna受邀一行访问华为,此文为他记述的行程游记,真实表现出一个外国人对中国的吃惊、不适应,以及对华为和中国的尊敬。原题“Huawei: File Under Travelogue”,译文保持原貌,未做过多删节。

  Heavy Reading受邀访问华为位于中国深圳的工业园,这样的机会不容错过。虽然旅途的飞行将令人厌恶,这种感觉足以扼杀你对一家公司直面交流的耐心。但此行目的地是中国,是华为,所以我们欣然而至。

  这是一家雄心勃勃的公司,富有活力、充满自信。华为很大程度上促成了国际电讯设备商的合并,他手执富于侵略性的价格和全面的产品线左右出击。

  华为以机动和策略开辟市场,躲过西方竞争者的视线,通过提供一应俱全的产品以及难以置信的低价,执着地开始国际扩张并赢取海外运营商的订单。华为同时拥有令人惊讶的天才集合,而只需为一位研发工程师支付12,000美元的年薪。

  较之中兴通讯,华为已胜出一程。

华为园区景色(新浪科技配图)

  旅程和预想中的一样令人不适,从纽华克(新浪科技注:美国纽约Newark机场。Newark亦为美国加利福尼亚州西部同名城市,位于旧金山湾东岸)至香港16小时不间断飞行。途经北京上空时,同行的一位分析师起身经过,他看起来彻底崩溃了,14个小时的飞行如同十年轮回,我则示以微笑。

  酷热的香港,并没有我期待中的异国情调。是夜,我们在九龙享用了匹萨和玛格丽塔鸡尾酒。

  一位华为的司机载着我们抵达了中国大陆,在深圳入住一家奢华的五星级酒店,这里管线供应的自来水不能够直接饮用。

  华为总部给人印象深刻,研发中心延伸达三四英亩,像蒙蒂塞洛(新浪科技注:Monticello,美国弗吉尼亚州中部夏洛茨维尔东南一个住宅区,现为美国国家圣地)一样富于新古典主义和谐。我们抵达主楼,玻璃和钢材铸就了这栋宏伟的高技术标志性建筑。

  率真讲,我们一行之前非常希望见到一座“电讯血汗工厂”——那场景或许是在烈日下炙烤的一排混凝土建筑,其间装满围着印刷电路板忙碌的未成年劳工,一天工作18个小时,只有上厕所才能得到片刻休息。

  不,这里并非耐克的工厂,华为很漂亮。进入精心布置的展览大厅,我和一位同伴立刻就被华为制造的每一样东西吸引住了。他的产品线涵盖思科、阿尔卡特、诺基亚和爱立信之和,有机顶盒、核心路由器、长途密集波分复用设备传输系统(Long-haul DWDM)、移动终端以及软交换。展品应接不暇,你很难用文字将其囊括,不如从一点开始体验——嗯,手机不错。

华为园区景色(新浪科技配图)

  华为在从其错误中领悟,分析师先前抱怨来自华为的信息匮乏,而今年公司提供了详尽的数据。去年11月,2006年计划、产品路标,以及客户的成功案例都作公开。这是非常积极开放的举动,最重要内容包括:

  - 2005年销售迅猛增长56%;

  - 海外销售要占销售总额的60%;

  - 在西欧赢取大型订单;

  - 与其他大型设备商没有合并计划;

  - 短期内不进入美国市场;

  - 令人不安的利润侵蚀(2004年销售利润率18%,2005年14%,2005年较2004年总利润下降9%);

  - 华为对与3Com的合作感到满意,双方在企业级网络市场共御风险,并且华为将退出以太网设备市场以避免与3Com直接竞争;

  - 没有削减大而全的产品线相关计划,即使西方运营商往往表现出偏爱技术领导者和系统集成商;

  - 在标准领域表现活跃,特别是NGN,华为的IMS(IP多媒体子系统)已趋完善;

  - 多次提及IPTV,但是显见真正的产品案例,目前华为似乎在培育这个市场的“生态系统”。

  我们在此聆听来自于华为公司的报告,每一领域都有让人印象深刻的增长数字。光网络事业部在逐渐成为世界主要运营商的合作伙伴,在Long-haul DWDM市场华为已经悄然成为领导者;数据通信部门则售出了数量不菲的核心路由器,份额位居Juniper和思科之后;在移动通信市场,华为WCDMA和CDMA2000双线作战,斩将夺旗。

  随后我们又回到了那个不能饮用自来水的宾馆,一位同行嘲讽这与奢华的装潢并不相称。在酒吧欣赏爵士、桑巴和打击乐时,Ray Le Maistre打开了话匣子述说中兴通讯,他有一本尚未出版的相关著作,我们意识到此举可能与周围的环境不甚融洽。James Crawshaw尚未喝高,这位Light Reading的资深分析师评价中兴同样陷于恶战……午夜过后,这个酒吧充斥了至少七八种语言,颇有情趣。环顾四周,这里没有劳顿之形。我记起这里是深圳,新修的大道直通华为,沿途棕榈成荫。

  乐轻柔,人欲醉。

华为百草园(新浪科技配图)

  次日,我们会见了各产品部门负责人。在谈及光网络话题时,一组热情洋溢的工程师发问并描述其产品创新。他们并不看好ROADM(新浪科技注:边缘可重构光分插复用器,为光传送网的核心设备),而寄希望于以太网、DWDM(密集多分复用技术)以及OTN(光传送网)。他们声称华为的实力在于芯片,而非所有的光网络设备,所以光传送网和以太网优先于ROADM和波长选择式交换。我们在过去两年间,访问过几乎所有主要的光网络设备供应商,不禁联想到Infinera(新浪科技注:美国光网络芯片供应商)。华为员工并不掩饰对Infinera的羡慕,他们将继续致力于减少光传输的成本。

  在IPTV会议,华为员工的问答尽管真挚而热忱,但他们看起来在转移话题。华为已经拥有IPTV客户,但与阿尔卡特相比较,还是后者的成绩更令人信服。

  谈及IMS,我眼皮开始招架不住倦意,但这不是华为的过失。如同IPTV,华为在IMS领域亦青出于蓝,富有抱负。虽然公司在这方面技术进展迅速,但是成为市场领导者尚需时日。

  数据通信领域,我们的谈话到了运营商以太网市场,华为拓宽了相关产品线。我们听说华为在开发一个新的多功能B-RAS(新浪科技注:宽带远程接入服务器),颇有兴致。该产品支持IPv6,并且在一些新兴市场已经服务于运营商的国家骨干网。

华为园区景色,石头上刻有“华为”字样(新浪科技配图)

  我无需记述返程之旅的细节,你知道这又是一场飞行的煎熬。安坐在家时,我决定作出Heavy Reading的报告,《中国新印象:华为及全球电信市场展望》(Remade in China: Huawei and the Future of the Global Telecom Market)于是出炉。Heavy Reading团队一行取得了共识:

  - 华为提供比你想象中更好的产品,但是目前并非技术领导者;

  - 西欧运营商的态度正在向华为倾斜,但是他们的在销售、支持以及专业维护等方面要求差异颇多;

  - 由于政策所限,华为不可能在全球所有地方都开拓业务;

  - 价格竞争并没有去年凶猛了,华为正在从以前的失误中汲取经验,这家公司已经加入了主流运营商的供应商行列,并在最大的市场中继续鏖战。(长乐未央)

Huawei: File Under Travelogue

Heavy Reading scored an invitation to Huawei’s Industry Analyst event in Shenzhen, China, and we just couldn’t pass it up. The flight sounded like murder, and these events can damage one’s faith in a company’s ability to communicate outside of PowerPoint. But this was China, and Huawei, so we had to go.

Thank God we did. Never has there been a better time to see firsthand what’s up at Huawei’s headquarters. This is a company with ambition, hubris, resilience, and at least one entertaining irony. Below is a recap.

What we knew before getting on the plane:

Huawei is more responsible for telecom equipment consolidation than anything you’ll read in vendors’ press releases. Its aggressive pricing and exhaustive product menu have brought down suppliers left and right. Consolidation may just be another word for attrition, thanks to Huawei.
Huawei outmaneuvered everyone in emerging markets. By offering soup-to-nuts, at embarrassingly low prices, it was able to get its arms around a wealth of carriers outside of China and start its international expansion in earnest, often under the radar of its Western rivals.
Huawei has an amazingly cheap talent pool: salaried engineers at $12,000 per year.
Huawei was out in front of ZTE by a mile.

The flight was as bad as you’d think. Non-stop Newark to Hong Kong: 16 hours. Walking to my seat, a man, unprompted by me, boasted of his ample supply of Ambien. After reading the papers over the past month, I figured I might see him eating his pillow in his sleep, so I wasn’t envious. Fellow analyst-traveler Rick Thompson and I were separated by seven or eight rows, so I had to make do with some single-serving friends (see: Fight Club) – a nice married couple of lawyers from DC heading to Vietnam on vacation.

I planned to catch up on my reading, but ended up talking, flipping channels, and rubbing my eyes in anguish. One upside: We flew over the North Pole, which, when the clouds parted, looked exactly as one would think. Then we flew over Siberia, which was as Siberian as you could possibly imagine: leafless trees, tundra. It looked about as inhospitable to dissidents and thieves as you’ve been led to believe.

Over Beijing, Mr. Ambien walked by, on his way to the bathroom, looking utterly ruined, ten years older in 14 hours, and I gave him a satisfied smile.

Hong Kong was sweltering, with more ozone than oxygen in the air, and not quite as exotic as I had hoped. We took the ferry from Kowloon to the center of town to find dinner and drinks, but we were far too disoriented to find what we wanted, so we ended up slogging between blocks of bars catering to Australian tourists or American military on shore leave. Much later, we found a little place in Kowloon for pizza and margaritas, our hopes for a night of scorpion bowls and fried duck abandoned on the steaming streets.

A driver, sent from Huawei, drove us from the hotel into mainland China, to our hotel in Shenzhen – a five-star with luxurious rooms, boasting a bathroom any New Yorker would kill for. That is, until one reads the little note by the faucet, unapologetically announcing that the water is non-potable. Back to that later.

Huawei headquarters is impressive as hell. One building, the R&D center, looks Jeffersonian, a modern Monticello elongated over three or four acres in neoclassic harmony. The main building, where we disembarked, used soaring glass and steel to the greatest high-tech effect. We were impressed. Naively, we may have been expecting, or even wishing, to see a real telecom sweatshop – perhaps a bunch of concrete buildings searing under the hot sun, filled with underage drones bent over PCBs, aligning fibers 18 hours a day, with one bathroom break.

But no, this wasn’t like working for Nike; it was beautiful. The elaborate lobby opened onto a product exhibition space – a visual Telecom 101 for anyone new to the industry. It soon became obvious to me and Rick that Huawei makes everything. It has the product lines of Cisco, Alcatel, Nokia, and Ericsson combined. It has set-top boxes, core routers, mobile handsets, long-haul DWDM transport systems, and softswitches. At some point, you can’t take it all in, so you have to just pick a spot – say, the handsets – and make do.

Huawei is a company that learns from its mistakes. It seems analysts grumbled about the leanness of information in its last few analyst events, so this year they poured it on, handing out thick binders with detailed data on each company segment, with last year’s numbers, 2006 projections, product roadmaps, and customer success stories. This was more information than we’d received at any other analyst event – a very positive opening move. The highlights included:

An astonishing 56 percent year-over-year growth in 2005 sales.
For the first year ever, overseas sales were nearly 60 percent of total sales.
Big wins in Western Europe.
No plans to merge with other major suppliers.
No near-term plans to enter the U.S. market (admitting it lost out to Ericsson at T-Mobile USA).
Worrisome profit erosion (18 percent operating margin in 2004, 14 percent in 2005; gross margins falling by 9 percent between 2004 and 2005).
A statement that Huawei would no longer be competing solely on price, and laying the blame for recent price wars at someone else’s feet (with no sense of irony, at all).
Reiterating that Huawei was satisfied with the 3Com joint venture for enterprise networking, and indicating that it would introduce Ethernet gear for service providers so as not to compete directly with 3Com.
No plans to reduce the size and scope of the product line, even if it may be seen as a liability when pursuing Western operators, which often express a preference for technology leaders and systems integrators.
Lots of activity in standards bodies, especially for NGN specifications – though its IMS story is a bit less well defined.
Lots of talk about IPTV, but a real coherent product story was hard to find; instead, Huawei seemed to be embracing the "ecosystem" model for now.

We heard from each area of the company, and each had impressive growth figures, Tier 1 customer wins, and a positive outlook to share. The optical group has been building backbones for large operators around the world and has quietly taken the global market share lead for the long-haul DWDM market; while the datacom group has shipped enough core routers to rank third behind Juniper and Cisco. In the mobile market, Huawei is playing both sides of the fence, with WCDMA and CDMA2000 gear shipping around the world in volume. What do you say when you hear all this in six hours? Damn: They are en fuego.

Reality set in when we got back to the hotel – you know, the one without drinkable water. At the bar, watching a jazz-samba-greatest-hits band, Rick said, "You know, they may be like this hotel. All glitz on the surface, but you peel it back a layer or two, and you’ve got a crummy water supply."

Ray Le Maistre’s bearish China story (see Pressure Piles on Huawei, ZTE) hadn’t been published yet, but just talking to some other analysts and local financial types, we were starting to sense that something wasn’t quite right with all those numbers. James Crawshaw, a Contributing Analyst for Light Reading Insider, drinking responsibly, said ZTE was in even worse shape. As the night wore on, the bar got more interesting. We heard at least seven or eight languages being spoken. There was a sense, for about an hour, that this hotel bar was the place to be in Shenzhen – that all those newly built roads, lined with palm trees along many stretches, led here. Yet, looking around, it wasn’t quite working. No one was really dancing, and the music moved incoherently from one upbeat style to another.

The next day we got to meet with individual product managers. The optical team was dynamite – an enthusiastic group of engineers eagerly asking questions and describing new product innovations. They’re not so sanguine on ROADMs, but they do love Ethernet, DWDM, and OTN, and they’re working on new platforms for the aggregation and metro transport network to take advantage of these technologies. Their strength, they said, was in chips, not all-optical devices, so OTN and Ethernet would take precedence over ROADMs or wavelength-selective switches. As with every other optical vendor we’ve interviewed in the past two years, Infinera’s name came up. Yes, they said, they were worried/envious; and yes, they would pursue integration to reduce the cost of optical transport.

In the IPTV session, Huawei’s team was grilled with questions; yet as earnest as their answers were, they seemed evasive. Huawei has IPTV customers, to be sure, but it just didn’t compare to a conversation with Alcatel’s IPTV folks, who will convince you they have it completely nailed.

When we got to IMS, my eyes glazed over, but that’s not Huawei’s fault. Colleagues better schooled on IMS than I commented that the picture looked similar to that for IPTV – Huawei has ambition there, and is rapidly developing the technology to stay on par with the rest of the supplier community, but it cannot be considered a leader in the space as yet.

In the datacom session, the talk was about the carrier Ethernet market, Huawei’s growing share and broadening product line, and the eventual integration with optical platforms. We also heard about a new class of multifunction B-RAS Huawei is working on, which sounded interesting. On routing, it has focused a great deal on IPv6 and high availability, and it has scored some wins building national backbones for operators in emerging markets.

I won’t even describe the flight back in detail. All you need to know is that it was endless torture, with heaping portions of bizarre, brutish seatmates, utterly lacking in empathy. Safe at home, I decided a Heavy Reading report was in order. I began gathering input on Huawei’s various areas from all of our analysts and compiling them into one handy package.

The result, just published, is a report called Remade in China: Huawei and the Future of the Global Telecom Market. It breaks Huawei down into its constituent parts – except for handsets and set-top boxes, with which I couldn’t be bothered. Looking at the submissions of the Heavy Reading team, nearly everyone’s analysis fell among the same lines:

Good product, better than you’d think – but not necessarily a technology leader in the space.
Western European operators are making the move to Huawei, but their experiences have been uneven, especially around sales, support, and professional services.
Price competition isn’t quite as rough as last year.
Huawei is learning from its mistakes, so counting it out is folly.
The company has joined the club of major suppliers, and is experiencing just how tough it is in the largest markets.
Huawei isn’t going anywhere, because China won’t let it.

— Scott Clavenna, Chief Analyst, Heavy Reading