Amid US standoff, Huawei looks for new markets in ‘brute force computing’

Huawei Rotating Chairman Ken Hu, speaking the company's annual 'Connect' conference in Shanghai.

The Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei will substantially increase investments into high-performance computing, its rotating chairman Ken Hu announced on Wednesday (18 September). The move came as Huawei faces increasingly tense relations with the West, appearing in front of American judges this week.

Speaking at the opening of Huawei’s 2019 flagship ‘Connect’ conference, Hu said “computing is a technology that we should have intensive investments in,” adding that within the next five years, AI computing will “account for more than 80% of all the computing power we use around the world.”

“After the birth of the first computer in 1946, we’ve seen incredible changes in form… In effect, computers have become an extension of ourselves. And based on this trend, it’s clear that computing as an industry has boundless potential,” he said.

As part of the new strategic turn to the computing sector, the company also announced on Wednesday that it will establish a $1.5bn fund to recruit software developers as well as sharing the secrets to its 5G technology with Western partners.

Ren Zhengfei: 'Very likely' Huawei products will be used in UK core 5G networks

Huawei 5G equipment will most probably be used in core aspects of the UK’s future 5G network infrastructure, the founder of the Chinese telecommunications giant, Ren Zhengfei has said. His claim runs contrary to the previous stance held by the UK cabinet, which was to permit the company access only to ‘non-core’ aspects of the country’s 5G networks.

Hu added that rule-based computing systems used for activities such as “analysing census data or calculating the trajectory of a moving object,” were no longer sufficient in an age of advanced computer processes such as voice recognition, image recognition, or real-time translation software.

Instead, Hu says, scientists have developed ‘statistical computing models,’ important for the operation of Artificial Intelligence, that will become mainstream in the not-too-distant future. One key characteristic of statistical computing, Hu said, was its sheer processing power.

“Statistical computing is essentially a form of brute force computing; it eats up computing resources,” he said, adding that the technology requires “a metric ton of computing power”, with applications such as autonomous driving, astronomy, and weather forecasting needing substantially more power.

As part of the new initiatives in the computing arena, on Thursday, Huawei unveiled its new Artificial Intelligence processor, the ‘Atlas 900,’ which the company claims has the computing capability of 500,000 PCs combined.

Legal challenge

On the sidelines of Huawei’s annual conference, an industry insider told EURACTIV that the move to develop a bolstered strategy for the computing market is a direct response to the company facing restrictions on the sale of its products to firms in the US and worldwide.

In addition to Huawei being placed on the US entity list earlier this year – making it difficult to obtain licenses for American companies to do business with the Chinese telecommunications giant – the UK-based chip designer ARM ordered staff in May to suspend business with Huawei.

The company’s search for new markets is seen as a way of mitigating the future possibility of being cut-off from trading with other Western-based technology firms.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the company will face judges in the US, following series of protracted public clashes with the Trump administration.  The legal case concerns the ban on government agencies purchasing Huawei products, but the company is also expected to hit out against a series of other restrictions, including the entity list placement.

A Huawei official familiar with the legal case informed EURACTIV that the company will not be employing a “passive” approach during its appearance in front of US judges on Thursday, and will instead take the opportunity to rally against the accusations levelled against it.

Huawei admit Chinese law obliges companies to work with government, under conditions

Chinese State Security Law forces companies based in the country to “provide assistance with work relating to State Security,” a senior Huawei official in Brussels has said, in comments likely to heighten cybersecurity concerns about the Chinese tech giant.

US campaign

The US administration accuses the company of cooperating in espionage campaigns on behalf of the Chinese state. Washington, however, is yet to publicly disclose any evidence to support the claims.

Nevertheless, following talks with US Vice President Mike Pence earlier this month, Polish President Andrzej Duda said that “Poland’s counter-intelligence has detected activity that could be of espionage nature.”

Poland has long been seen as fertile ground for US campaigning against Huawei, following the arrest earlier this year of Weijing W, otherwise known as ‘Stanislaw Wang’, a former Huawei employee who was detained in January on espionage fears.

During Pence’s recent Poland pit stop, the two countries signed a joint declaration on 5G security, which the US deputy said would “set a vital example for the rest of Europe,” in a veiled reference to the US hope that Huawei will be barred from EU 5G technologies.

In March, German Chancellor Angela Merkel rebuffed the US pressure on Europe, stating that “we will define standards for ourselves”. Following the Chancellor’s statement, the German Federal Networks Agency, BNetzA, established tighter security standards for 5G equipment but did not commit to excluding any particular company without sufficient evidence.

Meanwhile, the EU has been keen to preserve its political independence from the US in the ongoing debate over Huawei.

Following a recent European Commission recommendation for a common EU approach to the security of 5G networks, member states have submitted national risk assessments – providing an overview of their most pressing concerns in the future development of 5G infrastructure. 

These assessments will feed into the next phase, an EU-wide risk assessment which will be completed by 1 October.

US 'undermining political independence of Europe,' Huawei says

The US campaign against Chinese telecoms manufacturers is undermining the “political independence of Europe” to decide commercial partnerships for itself, Huawei has warned.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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