Aruba Networks targets a Cloud first, mobile first approach to networking

Following its acquisition by HP, Aruba Networks aims to disrupt the industry by being the leader in agile application delivery from the data centre to the mobile edge in both wired and wireless LAN environments

Aruba Networks targets a Cloud first, mobile first approach to networking

Enterprises and other organisations are increasingly shifting their networks away from the ‘Gen Y’ traditional model of hardware platform, Ethernet port and desktop PC to one that embraces mobile computing and communications via the cloud.

This shift was the driving force behind HP’s decision to acquire Wi-Fi manufacturer Aruba Networks on 2 March 2015 - a purchase completed on 19 May. HP has a vision for what it calls ‘the unified wired and wireless campus’ and it believes that by joining Aruba’s wireless LAN infrastructure expertise with HP’s strong presence in wired LAN, it can fulfil this vision.

The arrival of Aruba into the HP fold also brings with it expertise in enterprise mobility software, security and orchestration solutions that can be integrated across this campus infrastructure. HP Aruba aims to provide a Cloud first, mobile first approach to networking.

Aruba has been combined into the HP Networking business, which sits within HP’s Enterprise Group, and is now referred to as Aruba Networks, an HP business. HP has been at pains to try and avoid the loss of drive and focus that can affect a relatively small, agile player when it is absorbed into a large enterprise.

It has retained Aruba’s executives, including CEO Dominic Orr, and in an effort to keep it agile and flexible, is treating the HP Networking/Aruba unit as if it were a ‘start-up’ – albeit one with revenues of US$3 billion.

In a briefing on 7 October 2015 in London, Dominic Orr, president of Aruba Networks (pictured), outlined the company’s strategy and future road map.

Orr explained that for what Aruba calls ‘GenMobile’- the new generation of mobile savvy employees entering the workplace - life and work is inseparable; they mix life and work apps on the same device – a process he referred to as ‘ensumerisation’. GenMobile wants to be able to access everything via their devices anytime, anywhere.

Orr said there are two kinds of virtualisation at work in networks today that are now making GenMobile’s demands possible. ‘First, the server is moved around; you don’t know where the compute resources are that you are interfacing with.

‘The second is the virtualisation of the user identification. There used to be a one-to-one association between the user, the PC and the port. But now you can access that ID through multiple devices. You have a different persona as you get onto the network via different devices – this is virtualisation at the edge.’

What this means, according to Orr, is that a very different infrastructure is required to enable a virtual user to interact with a virtual application in a situation where it doesn’t matter where that user gets onto the network.

But the challenge is being compounded by the growth of M2M/IoT communications, which have big ramifications for the IT infrastructure, as the predicted millions, if not billions, of connected devices will drastically stretch the underlying structure.

‘From client server computing we are moving to Cloud computing,’ said Orr. ‘We think the combination of HP and Aruba at this point will create a disruptive technology here. HP once stood for wired switching networks, but it is now leading the industry in open flow software switching – software defined networking (SDN).’

Orr explained Aruba’s mission is one where it wants to be the leader in:

• Mobile first campus networking
• Cloud first data centre networking
• Deliver a very high growth, high margin business model
• Build an elite networking workforce.

He pointed out that the market opportunity is considerable: the Enterprise Networking market is worth about $20.1bn (HP/Aruba have a $2.5bn share); Data Centre Networking some $9.9bn (HP/Aruba - $200m); and the Network Access Control market is around $550m (where HP/Aruba’s current share is around $68m).

There is plenty of competition out there of course, so Orr said Aruba’s way of differentiating itself is to provide agile application delivery from the data centre to the mobile edge.

‘It is complex and the key word here is agile,’ he noted. ‘We are the plumber of the network; we hook the pipes together. But what kind of plumbing is needed in the future? We store the compute power and memory in a server. But now these servers are not in your building; they are in massive data centres elsewhere and we access them via the Cloud.

‘Every time you click on a mobile app it calls on a different server and you need to get this to the edge; to the mobile device. How do we architect this and address the need for instant access?’ Orr asked.

Orr said a number of areas need to addressed to meet this challenge and for Aruba to differentiate itself in the market. He broke these down into four areas:

• Agile Data Centre
• Digital Workplace
• Adaptive Trust
• Mobile Engagement

‘This is not about routing and switching, which is all designed to serve the old network architecture, not the new one,’ Orr asserted.

Agile Data Centre
Orr argued that the Agile Data Centre needs to be proven at scale and open at every layer.
‘We need an open system as the features of each application are going to be different, so this requires a composable per application computing infrastructure, where you release the necessary resources to handle the demands of a particular application – addressing priority, timing, bandwidth, etc. We are designing this and we believe we are the best in the world at this right now.’

Digital Workplace
The new Digital Workplace is one dominated by wireless devices and Orr argued that networks have to get smarter. Aruba intends to differentiate itself here by providing a single architecture, tackling Layer 4-7 application services and providing application and user visibility.

‘We need to be constantly aware of who the users are, what apps need priority and what resources need to be marshalled to deal with them,’ said Orr. He also argued that not all the traffic needs to be handled all the time.

‘We need to have the intelligence to decide what traffic needs to go through immediately and what can wait; who are the VIPs in the room? We have to preferentially disappoint – you know which apps or which people you must give preference to,’ he said.

Adaptive Trust
Referring to older Gen Y network architectures, Orr noted that they feature trusted and untrusted zones. This outlet is in a safe area, but this port is facing the Internet, so it is not trusted. The traditional response is to put a firewall between that port and the company.

‘But companies are not so monolithic these days,’ observed Orr. ‘They have part time and temporary workers and guests inside the trusted zone with non-company devices. So, you assume everyone is bad and only provide a small hole in your network when you know who the user is, what device they have and what they want to do. When they finish, you block them out again – this is adaptive trust,’ he explained.

But he pointed out that it is hard to change a user’s profile very quickly from trusted to untrusted. Aruba’s ClearPass product is designed to tackle this as it provides a policy engine to deal with mobility; e.g. it is okay to do x and y in your office within these hours, but not after. Or, you can do some things in the public café, but not others – in short it enables an adaptive device and application management policy that in turn enables enterprises to meets the demands of the mobile workforce.

Mobile Engagement
Allowing anytime, anywhere access means that the majority of the access is in public environments such as venues and train stations. This means enterprises are in effect dealing with an all BYOD environment.

‘The plumbing is no longer the plumbing,’ observed Orr. ‘The key attribute of SDN is the interaction with the plumbing; the software defines the network according to the device or applications’ need. SDN breaks the old model.’

To enable this, Orr argued that mobile engagement needs to be simple and Cloud managed and it requires a rich SDK for application developers.

As an illustration, Orr cited the example of a retail environment. ‘We now have the opportunity to use the network to see who has come into the shop. We can see that a certain customer comes into a particular coffee shop every Monday to Friday between 8.00 and 8.15, but at the weekend goes to a branch somewhere else for two hours.

‘A company could use the data to increase the rent in one location, because they can prove the footfall is 40% greater in this branch than that one. It can also use this data to push information, vouchers, or a loyalty card to the customer – this is mobile engagement,’ said Orr.

Product Portfolio
Outlining the combined HP/Aruba product portfolio, Orr said it comprised a range of offerings from the agile data centre to the mobile edge:

• Software: management, policy & location-based services
• Mobility Infrastructure
• Campus Switching
• Data Centre Switching

In term of building an elite networking workforce, Arbua has also developed what it calls its Airheads Community of 36,000 campus mobility engineers, working in different parts of the industry – in R&D, in the technical community, channel partners and so on, who can act as advocates to customers.

Looking at Aruba’s position in the industry, Orr cited some recent research into the wired and wireless LAN access infrastructure market undertaken in August 2015 by Gartner. HP Enterprise (Aruba Networks) was placed in the Leaders section of the Gartner Magic Quadrant, along with Cisco.

HP Aruba came top in Gartner’s analysis of critical capabilities for wired and wireless LAN access infrastructure for the following:

• Enterprise unified wired and WLAN access
• Enterprise wireless-only connectivity
• SMB and/or small or remote branch office
• Voice over WLAM
• IaaS or managed service.

It came second in a sixth capability - enterprise wired-only connectivity, behind Cisco. It was also ranked a close second in data centre networking in both Forrester’s 2015 Wave report and Gartner’s 2015 Magic Quadrant report.

Summing up, Orr said the HP Aruba culture is focused on: profitable growth; innovation; customer first/last; and to be the ‘biggest small company’. His closing message to enterprises was that they need to:

• Transform to a hybrid infrastructure
• Protect your digital enterprise
• Enable workplace productivity
• Empower a data drive organisation.

Prospects for the EMEA market
Alain Carpentier, VP HP Networking and Aruba EMEA, outlined how the company intends to translate the strategy outlined by Dominic Orr on the ground in the EMEA region.

Taking a look at the potential EMEA networking market from 2015-18, Carpentier said that the Networking market is expected to grow from $0.8bn to a $9.6bn business (a CAGR of +2.9%). Within this, WLAN and Campus are an opportunity and a key growth portion of the total, rising from $0.4bn in 2015 to $5.7bn in 2018 (a CAGR of +1.4%).

WLAN on its own underpins this growth and the shift to mobile and the Cloud, rising from $0.5bn to $1.9bn (a CAGR of +11.5%). Carpentier argued that HPE Aruba is a solid growing challenger in this space behind market leader Cisco in both WLAN and the L2 and L3 enterprise Ethernet switch market in the EMEA region.

‘We are a solid No.2 in WLAN with an 11% market share, rising to 15% when HP’s share is added. We are also a solid No.2 in the L2 and L3 enterprise Ethernet switch market with a 12.8% share,’ he said. In Q2 2015, HP had a 12% of the data centre revenue market share and 16% of the port market share. ‘So, we are in a good position in wireless, wired and data centres,’ said Carpentier.

HPE Aruba’s EMEA strategy is to disrupt the industry. ‘The installed base is very traditional, so they need to switch to a mobile first approach.’ The approach required has to be simple, software defined, contextual and open.

The goal on the mobility side is to deliver high quality applications that perform everywhere to boost workplace productivity. The tools for this include: mobile optimised networking, security and management products, and mobility software.

‘The HPE Enterprise sales force and the Aruba WLAN sales force will combine to sell the mobility concept in the SMB space,’ said Carpentier. ‘We want a big, agile sales force, plus the HP Enterprise sales forces to help penetrate the big customers and government organisations.’

On the Cloud side the aim is deliver those applications faster with an agile development ecosystem using a hybrid infrastructure. This requires: disaggregate hardware and software; Cloud-optimised networking; and network virtualisation.

‘We had the Virtual Connect offering in the past, but we now use the Cloud for the virtual offering. HP is working with Alcatel-Lucent’s SDN solutions unit Nuage Networks on virtualisation. We are introducing a lot of new open standards that work with the Cloud better than traditional data centre operations,’ said Carpentier.

The basis of the approach is that the Cloud will be the standard of the future. This will disrupt the traditional market and change the thinking of the customers, driving a shift from wired to wireless and from the data centre to the Cloud.

Summing up, Carpentier said that mobility is transforming industry verticals and they want to be able to monetise this. HPE Aruba is targeting five key verticals:

• Education – is producing a highly digitally educated workforce
• Retail – is seeing a shift in the retail mindset: how to keep the customer in the store; use big data analysis to engage with them via their smartphones
• Healthcare – digital knowledge domain, use wireless solutions, IoT – location and condition sensing
• Hospitality – Wi-Fi cited as the most important amenity; therefore use it to drive more business; location based marketing
• Venues/Events – Aruba has a lot of experience of digitalising venues such as stadia and museums, which helps to accelerate merchandising and food/beverage sales and provides a fast RoI for the customer.

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