Cisco CEO John Chambers says the company he is most worried about is not Juniper or HP.It’s Chinese network gear maker Huawei Technologies.
In an interview during a Wall Street Journal event, he then all-but-accused Huawei of being a thief. “They don’t always play by the rules,” he said. When pressed, he hinted that enterprises and governments are concerned that Huawei will steal their intellectual property.
“When you look at companies, one of the things you don’t want to do — lack of transparency — you don’t want to have people doubting, will you copy their intellectual property. You don’t want to have them doubting about is there security issues, etc.,” he said — and made it clear he meant this particular company, not China generally. “This is not an issue directed at China.”
In 2003, Cisco sued Huawei claiming it had illegally copied its technology. In 2004, Cisco said that the two settled, and Huawei removed the contested code. (Huawei and Motorola also got into some dueling lawsuits involving patent infringement).
William Plummer, Huawei’s top PR dude, was quick to tell Cisco to shove it, the WSJ reports. He pointed out that Huawei has earned trust and respect in 140 markets worldwide, counts 500 telecom operators as customers and has 50,000 of its own patents.
“Huawei has a strong history of respect for the intellectual property rights of others, and the protection of our own,” Plummer said.
Still Chambers does have reason to worry about Huawei and other low-cost Chinese network gear makers. New forms of software-based networking are emerging that work great with low-cost hardware. One such open source technology, known as OpenFlow, could do for routers and switches what VMware did for servers. For many companies, this stuff will mean that cheaper, commodity routers and switches can be used instead of expensive “intelligent” ones built by Cisco.
Here’s a the video of the full interview.