Huawei Enterprise Channel Chief: 'We're Ahead Of Where We Thought We'd Be'

It's been nearly a year since Huawei launched its U.S. Enterprise Group and turned its attention to North America-based channel partners to help it make inroads in the crowded networking, infrastructure and storage segments here.

But to hear Huawei's burgeoning channel team tell it, Huawei Enterprise is not only developing a pipeline but also moving its early partner signees from the recruitment stage to the enablement stage, bringing them programs that touch everything from services opportunities to technical training.

Progress is good, said Rob Claus, vice president, U.S. channel sales and marketing, Huawei Enterprise Business Group, and Huawei will soon start to reveal not only its initial partners and distributors but also customers.

"We're quoting projects, we've got forecasts and we're pretty happy," Claus said in an exclusive interview with CRN at XChange 2012 in Dallas this week. "We're above our plan. We're ahead of where we thought we would be by now. It's full steam."

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[Related: Huawei Teams With Synnex For All-Out U.S. Channel Offensive ]

Huawei's stated goal at the time of its October 2011 program launch was to eventually do 100 percent of its enterprise sales in the U.S. through solution providers. In March of this year, it rolled out a training and certification program and a fine-tuned version of the Huawei enterprise channel program structure that organizes its partners into distributors, VARs, and Silver-, Gold- and Platinum-level Huawei solution providers.

Claus declined to identify the company's partners by name, but said Huawei has signed about three dozen solution providers in the U.S., with a mix of storage, networking and videoconferencing backgrounds. The Synnex relationship Huawei entered into this spring is also bearing fruit, Claus indicated, and Huawei is further in discussions with other distributors whose agreements it expects to announce within the next few months.

Claus stressed that the pace of Huawei's recruitment will remain deliberate.

"One thing we're not going to do is become over-distributed. We're very targeted and focused," he said. "The resellers we have signed -- the nice part about it is that they're not looking at products; they're looking at the opportunity. We've offered a fairly simple channel program that's going to allow them to [bring us in] as an alternative. They see the opportunity. They see the long-term opportunity, as in it may not be this month, or next month, or even six months, but they see our momentum of a year and two years down the road."

NEXT: Fast Start Programs

Huawei over the past few months has held what it calls Fast Start programs -- two-day seminars in New Jersey, Texas and California through which Huawei invited partners in for sales and technical training. Each Fast Start event sold out, Claus said, and had about 40 participants.

In addition to building its internal channel support team, Huawei is also getting ready to roll out a services program for solution providers, who will be able to resell its services and support, or -- provided they qualify and are willing to make an additional investment -- brand Huawei services under their own labels and reap better margins.

Customer curiosity over the Huawei name is helping the team open doors, Claus said -- especially its status as a $35 billion global player that's still a relative unknown in the U.S. Huawei's U.S. enterprise portfolio will continue to expand, and as of now covers switches, routers, cloud management products, videoconferencing and storage appliances.

"It enables partners to go into places they haven't and be able to offer an alternative," Claus said. "We can offer savings in many cases -- significant savings that allow customers to expand their budget. We also offer partners the chance to get in with us on the ground-floor and not worry about 10 dealers down the road selling the product."

Huawei faces an upward climb to make progress in the U.S. market. It's still dogged by concerns over its executive team's alleged ties to the Chinese military, and it has left a bad taste in the mouths of some U.S.-based channel partners following the implosion of the Huawei Symantec joint venture late last year.

It's also in the crosshairs of major networking vendors trying to keep it boxed out of the North America market; Cisco, in particular, has looked to paint Huawei as unethical and as having an unreliable partnering strategy.

Claus said Huawei's success and program will speak for itself.

"We're going to run the program on principles of consistency and no surprises and being very up front," he said. "It's not a complicated program where you have to sit down every quarter and find out what the changes are going to be and how you're going to make money. There is nothing to unravel."