Aruba Networks announced today (1 October 2013) a new cloud-managed Wi-Fi solution that combines the simplicity of a cloud service with the performance, manageability and reliability of enterprise-grade wireless local area networks (WLANs).
The Aruba cloud Wi-Fi solution combines the new Aruba Central cloud-based management service with Aruba Instant access points (APs) – including the new Instant 155 wireless and wired AP, the new Instant 220 series 802.11ac wireless AP, and a new version of Aruba Instant OS, to meet the requirements of diverse, distributed organisations and mid-size networks.
In addition, Aruba is expanding its switching portfolio with the new Aruba S1500 mobility access switch, optimised for cloud Wi-Fi and designed for both large distributed enterprises and smaller locations – (for more details on the products see below).
Unlike previous generations of cloud solutions, the Aruba cloud Wi-Fi solution doesn’t sacrifice critical enterprise capabilities such as performance, resiliency and flexibility for simplified, cloud-hosted management.
Aruba’s enterprise-grade cloud Wi-Fi solution offers a distributed architecture that links into an enterprise’s central management and policy infrastructure. Cloud-based management is an ideal IT solution for organisations that have multiple locations to support and limited resources to do so.
Speaking to Wireless, Chris Kozup, senior director of EMEA marketing, Aruba Networks, says: ‘Our goal is to provide a flexible architecture that can solve the needs of large enterprises, branch offices, hotspot or a home office environment. Some large corporations rely heavily on controllers; others, such as schools for example, don’t need all the functionality and high availability you get from a controller based system.
‘But whichever Aruba system a customer chooses, they all retain the same common feature-based perspective. We are not out to promote different strains of Wi-Fi architecture, but we offer a broad based solution with the same look and feel.’ Below: Aruba Cloud Wi-Fi architecture.
Kozup says that Aruba has noticed a growing appetite among customers for SaaS (software as a service) and a shift from capex investments to opex, so clients are buying SaaS solutions and software, rather than new hardware.
‘This is how customers are looking to buy and provision IT services,’ he says. ‘So our response to that is cloud Wi-Fi. It is a solution that is made up of a couple of components: our Instant access points (APs) and the Aruba Central cloud-based management system.
‘The Instant APs operate without the use of a controller. One AP in the cluster is nominated as a master with virtual controller functionality built into it. The master AP manages that cluster point and liaison back into the cloud where the control functionality is happening.’
Aruba’s portfolio of APs starts with low end Instant 155 APs designed for a table top and goes right up to the very latest Instant 220 Series of APs featuring the newest Wi-Fi standard – 802.11ac, which can also operate in Instant mode. ‘We provide a whole variety of AP solutions, but an IT manager does not have to manage that on the premise,’ says Kozup
Aruba Central is the management capability provided as a SaaS solution in the Cloud. ‘The customer goes to an Aruba channel partner (Aruba sells 100% through the indirect channel) and for an annual fee of £105 per year per AP, they get the AP and access to Aruba Central cloud based management solution, which they can access via any standard web browser,’ explains Kozup.
The APs are configured prior to deployment in the premise and are assigned an IP address. ‘Anyone can plug the APs in, as no specialist engineering skill is required,’ says Kozup. ‘Once connected, the AP looks for the IP address and finds the Aruba Central service. It then automatically downloads the firmware and configuration settings.
‘It is a very easy way to set up Wi-Fi services and very helpful for branch organisations, as it is costly to send IT people out to all those dispersed locations. A lot of schools and SMEs find this solution attractive, as they don’t have IT expertise in house or the budget to purchase a lot of on-site hardware management equipment.’
Kozup continues: ‘What we have targeted here is the need to have a management capability that is still robust enough even though it is held in the cloud. Our APs are still very much enterprise class. Some other cloud APs feature a lot of consumer grade components, which is fine for the home, but not for a business where you must have a consistent and robust RF service.’
While the APs are enterprise class, customers can choose the levels of network management expertise they want depending on the complexity or feature set that they require. ‘Our primary task is to delivery an Aruba interface that will match any other interface on the market now,’ asserts Kozup.
‘We have partnered with multiple cloud providers nationally and regionally, so we are like any other cloud-based service, such as Salesforce’s CRM service. We think moving to cloud-based services will open up more of the market to Wi-Fi, because of the ease of delivery and operations it provides.’
Preserving the WAN link
Besides just getting the management functionality you want from the cloud, Aruba’s other value proposition is uptime. Other Wi-Fi systems are very heavily reliant on the WAN link. If the link is broken between the APs and the cloud management service, the APs cannot authenticate and provide access to mobile devices.
‘We are not reliant on the WAN link, however,’ explains Kozup. ‘We can continue the WAN link for some time. Sure, if it is out for months there will be degradation of service, but in the interim the APs can continue to function and authenticate devices and allow them on the network. This is because of the intelligence and processing power in the APs, which provides virtual controller software.’
The enterprise can deploy a highly available network with a wide range of network management functionality and service in key locations and install much simpler versions in smaller branch offices.
‘The IT manager can monitor and view the performance of the network across the entire range of dispersed sites, all from one location, as this solution can go across any of their office environments. So, we believe it is quite a differentiated offering we are providing,’ says Kozup.
The Aruba system comes with full real time reporting and records what happens on the network so this can be interrogated at a later date and the Wi-Fi service provision altered to meet changing needs over time.
‘If they decide to close or move an office they have a lot of flexibility as to how they adjust the network upwards or downwards. We work with our cloud partners to adjust things at a global level as well,’ says Kozup.
He points out that the payment plan is flexible too. The customer is paying £105 per AP a year and while there is a period of transition in Wi-Fi standards from 802.11n APs, they can switch to the service plan for 802.11ac products when they are ready. They can purchase that specific plan, so it is very flexible and they are not locked into a hardware choice that they have to stick with for five years.
Aruba says its solution offers 10 x faster Wi-Fi connexions than some other cloud-based Wi-Fi systems. Kozup says this is largely down to the choice of enterprise grade components including the radio, chipset and antenna design. Below: Aruba Central cloud-based management of Wi-Fi networks
Aruba Product Suite
Aruba Central cloud-hosted management solution
Aruba Central is designed to provide a simplified, single point of management for Wi-Fi networks. It is a public, cloud subscription-based management service that gives organisations a single point of management for multiple sites and multiple Instant WLANs within sites.
Designed to scale to large volumes of data with quick, responsive user interface (UI) performance, and multiple cloud providers and data centres around the world, Aruba Central offers top performance and reliability for all geographies.
Aruba Central combines true, zero-touch provisioning with rich management capabilities including central configuration and firmware management, remote monitoring and troubleshooting and detailed compliance records and historical data. As a result, organisations can easily manage their Aruba Instant networks wherever they are located.
In addition, Aruba is introducing its new eSupport site to give Aruba Central users free, online access to technical support, educational resources, tutorials and how-to guides, troubleshooting information and community support.
Aruba Instant 155 access point
Adding to its broad portfolio of Instant access points, Aruba is introducing the Instant 155, a new 3-antenna/3-spatial stream access point for simple installation on desktops. It can be used for wired and wireless networking
With speeds of up to 450Mbps and four Gigabit Ethernet ports with Power over Ethernet (PoE) for connecting printers, IP phones and other wired peripherals, the Instant 155 AP is ideal for branch and remote offices.
The Instant 155 AP also includes new Aruba Instant OS Version 3.3 software, which improves resiliency by keeping networks up and running even when one Internet connection fails. The new software provides dual Ethernet uplink support, 4G cellular uplink and flexible scheduling of image upgrades to improve network availability for end users.
Aruba’s Instant 155 table top access point is a unique offering, according to Kozup. ‘You won’t see something like this elsewhere. Perhaps Cisco’s 1000 or 800 series routers with in-built Wi-Fi would be the closest you’d get, but ours is much cheaper.’
Kozup says that the company deploys a lot of this type of AP in environments hosting large numbers of teleworkers: distributed call centre capabilities; customer facing account queries; field sales (e.g. pharmaceutical reps) and the like.
‘We’ve also had a lot of success with this platform providing data and voice and telephony services in small offices and home office environments in remote locations. It is quite a differentiator for us and helps us break into tradition Cisco territory. It also dovetails nicely with the Aruba Central cloud management capabilities – the ability to provide over the air upgrades and so on.’
Aruba Instant 220 Series access points
The Aruba 220 Series APs, featuring ClientMatch technology, are purpose-built for 802.11ac, resulting in time and cost savings for enterprises. Unlike modular 802.11ac APs, the Aruba 220 Series access points draw much less power, and also feature a power-efficient mode, so that enterprises can operate the APs at lower speeds with available 802.3af PoE power.
Kozup says: ‘We have had these on the market for several months now and they are shipping very well and beating expectations.’
Aruba’s unique, patented ClientMatch technology resolves the issue of ‘sticky clients’ on 802.11ac and 802.11n Wi-Fi networks, wherein mobile devices have difficulty connecting to the best possible access point.
‘Sticky client’ problems occur due to a mobile device’s poor roaming algorithms, lack of proper RF interference monitoring, and competition with other slower devices that monopolise an entire channel.
ClientMatch dynamically optimises Wi-Fi client performance by putting the Wi-Fi infrastructure in control of client connection and roaming decisions.
Aruba S1500 mobility access switch
The new Aruba S1500, expands Aruba’s mobility access switch portfolio in a form factor and price point friendly to mid-sized networks. The switch is optimised for Cloud Wi-Fi and is described as an ideal solution for branch offices.
Integrating with Instant WLANs, the switch provides PoE for access points, can automatically use VLAN information from Instant APs, and provide rogue AP containment when alerted by the Instant virtual controller.
In addition, the S1500 incorporates innovative power management and PoE prioritisation for business critical devices connected to the switch. The S1500 offers 12-, 24- and 48-port options and four Gigabit Ethernet uplinks.
Kozup notes that Aruba is not known typically as a switch provider, but with clients moving their staff away from fixed desk station environments to mobile working, there are less Ethernet switches being bought.
‘We’ve had a switching portfolio for two years,’ says Kozup. ‘It’s designed for the branch office scenario. Customers will buy the APs and a management service for the APs, but they still need to plug the APs in to get power.
‘Some companies told us they rather have a 100% Aruba system and not have to buy Cisco or HP switch. So, while it is not a big thing for us it does mean we can provide an end-to-end wired and wireless. But we are not looking to take on Cisco or HP for switching. It’s always sold in conjunction with a wireless system.’
Pricing and availability
- Aruba Central is available now and is priced at £105 per access point, annually.
- The Aruba Instant 155 is available now with pricing starting at £671.25.
- The Instant 225 is available starting in October 2013 and prices begin at £971.25.
The new Aruba Instant OS version 3.3 software is available now, free of charge for existing Aruba Instant customers. The Aruba S1500 Mobility Access Switch 24- and 48- port models are available now and the 12-port model will be available in late 2013, with pricing starting at £1,121.25.