Aruba Networks on Wednesday named Bob Bruce its new vice president of worldwide channel sales. Bruce, a 30-year IT veteran who's held top channel roles in several major companies in the networking space, will be in charge of expanding channel presence around Aruba's portfolio of 802.11n wireless LAN and mobility products.
"When you're in the business as long as I've been in the business, you see typical inflection points, and at each of those inflection points in the past, there have been opportunities for VARs to take advantage," Bruce said in a Channelweb.com interview. "Of VARs who did take advantage, some were successful and some were wildly successful. Right now is the next big inflection point in this business, and that's what I'll call the rightsizing of wired LANs that will be replaced by wireless 802.11n. That's a given."
Bruce was most recently vice president of North American Sales for Meru Networks. Before Meru, Bruce headed up service provider and Americas enterprise channels for Juniper Networks until his departure from Juniper in April 2007. Prior to that, Bruce spent nearly a decade at Cisco, where among other roles, he was vice president of U.S. channels, and also held positions at 3Com and IBM.
Bruce officially joined Aruba Networks this week. According to Bruce and Michael Tennefoss, Aruba's head of strategic marketing, Aruba will be adding to its internal channel team as well as looking for ways to grow its channel community on a global level in 2010.
"I'm loath to get into it specifically in terms of details, only because there's a lot of competitive pressure on us. We don't want to tip our hand," Tennefoss said. "I think the best way to put it is that as we expand and grow in specific theaters, there are structures and programs that have to be created. The best way to do that is growing our partners and growing our infrastructure."
Bruce championed technologies and channel growth potential in Aruba that are attractive to VARs.
"They are the logical alternative to the major player in this space, including in technical innovation," Bruce said, referring to Aruba's competitiveness with Cisco. "It's not only my observation but the observation of principal channel partners as well. That's been verified by some of the market analysts, but also by the partners, which is who I listen to."
The wireless networking market itself grows more competitive, with everyone from established players like Cisco to upstarts like Ruckus vying for a piece of the action. Aruba has long been the No. 2 share leader in WLAN, though its channel penetration has not always been deep.
Aruba and Meru have been especially competitive of late, at least on the level of rhetoric. (Tennefoss, like Bruce, is a former Meru executive.)
Both companies, for example, claimed they held the number two market share in 802.11n wireless LAN market following a June report from the Dell'Oro Group assessing market shares for the first quarter of 2009. After Meru claimed to have earned 12 percent of vendor revenues for 11n products in the quarter, Aruba issued a press release to refute Meru's claim, saying Meru and Dell'Oro had not counted Aruba OEM sales when calculating market share. The contretemps caused Dell'Oro to adjust how it presented the data, which wound up in Aruba's favor.
Tennefoss suggested the stronger wireless players would survive in 2010 and beyond, and the weaker ones would continue to fall away.
"There's going to be a Darwinian cleansing. You're already seeing that with some of the smaller players that have been acquired or have gone away," Tennefoss said of Aruba's competition. "This is a market being driven in large part by either the size of the company or the technology. When you combine technological vision with great support and a structure that's allowing partners to know their backs are covered with best-in-class support, it drives business further. We've had four record quarters in a row. We're executing well."
The push toward 802.11n wireless infrastructure has been key for Aruba, which throughout 2009 has pushed its 11n gear as having better technology and more bang for the buck than competitors.
Recently, Aruba's also been focused on expanding its AirWave division. In October, Aruba launched a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) version of its AirWave Wireless Management Suite.
"It's a good move. A lot of people know Bob and they know Aruba needs a channel boost," said one Aruba solution provider, who requested his name not be used. "I don't sell Meru so I'm not sure what it was all about there, but I don't see how it [Aruba] won't be a stronger program."
"We at Aruba are privileged to work with some of the premier VARs in this space," Bruce said. "I was more than pleasantly surprised by the caliber of partners that Aruba had already."
Bruce left Meru Networks earlier this fall, and said he approached Aruba some weeks later.
"It was not a matter of leaving Meru," he said. "It was a matter of moving toward something more expansive, and taking advantage of a bigger opportunity."
Privately held Meru Networks recently added two new faces to its own executive team: Ram Appalaraju, who joined Meru in late November as vice president of marketing, and Glenn Cross, who is Meru's senior vice president of worldwide sales.
Cross is a well-traveled sales executive who had sales executive positions at Sun Microsystems, Adobe, Palm and Lotus/IBM, and before his Meru role, was senior vice president for global sales at Secure Computing, now owned by McAfee.
Some solution providers reached by Channelweb.com Wednesday suggested Bruce's moving on and Cross' arrival would in fact be better for Meru's channel, too.
"In order to reach new heights, dynamic and fast-paced organizations like Meru really need the level of executive talent that has the vision, the drive, the passion and the credibility to drive sales and further market success," said Bob McGowan, president of Converged Network Solutions (CNS), an Okemos, Mich.-based solution provider and Meru partner. "Glenn Cross represents opportunities with Meru that CNS had not realized under Bob's leadership."
In a statement e-mailed to Channelweb.com, Meru didn't comment on Bruce's departure, but Meru CEO Ihab Abu-Hakima praised Cross, saying that Cross' "proven ability to achieve results ... will undoubtedly help transform the sales strategy at Meru to help us further execute well into 2010."
"While the proof is in the pudding, so far everything I see and hear suggests that I can finally believe in the sales leadership and the renewed commitment to the channel at Meru," McGowan said. "This is a very positive step in the right direction for Meru. As we do not sell Aruba, this is further validation not to."