Plenty of vendors market their wares as interoperable with other vendors' products and architectures. But with a new program announced Monday, Aruba Networks is tightening the process for testing and validating its own wireless and mobility products with those of other vendors, hoping that formal certification between itself and other vendors will open up more sales and integration opportunities for both Aruba and its solution provider partners.
"It's about best-in-class partners that can not only provide technology solutions but drive sales initiatives and pull us into projects just like we would pull [other vendors] into projects," said Michael Tennefoss, vice president of business development at Aruba.
The ArubaEdge Partner Program, as it's called, was actually created a few months ago, and Aruba now has 80 partners that are somewhere in the process of being certified. The vendors involved include everyone from Avaya, Microsoft and Polycom to Motion Computing, Welch Allyn, AeroScout and Ekahau.
There are two categories of partnership. First is ArubaEdge Certified Partners, whose products are validated for their interoperability with the Aruba Mobile Virtual Enterprise (MOVE) architecture.
Second is ArubaEdge Solution Partners, who are more strategically aligned with Aruba, must meet stricter validation requirements, and also partner with Aruba on go-to-market activities and customer support functions, such as a joint "hotline" for end user support.
Solution Partners, said Tennefoss, will be a much smaller subset of the overall ArubaEdge Certified Partners. Another thing Solution Partners do as part of the program is, along with Aruba, create a best practices and deployment guide for the validated solution -- Aruba engineers write their part of a solution guide, and the other vendor's engineers write theirs. Whenever there is a new software release from either Aruba or the partner vendor, Tennefoss said, Aruba will automatically test the solution to make sure everything is still interoperable.
Solution Partners' products are also displayed as part of Aruba's Executive Briefing Center in Sunnyvale, Calif., where Aruba VARs and customers can see combined product sets in action. That's valuable for Aruba solution providers, Tennefoss said, because they have a place to which they can direct potential customers to try out Aruba-led mobility solutions and understand various ways to build integrated, multi-vendor architectures. The Briefing Center has six mobility "experiences" addressing various customer scenarios.
Aruba has yet to reject an application to the overall Certified Partners program, Tennefoss said, and sees no point in capping the number of potential certified partners. Hundreds of them would be terrific, Tennefoss said, because by nature that would expand Aruba's reach, too.
Aruba is publishing a lot of the reference designs that come about as a result of partnering with other vendors in the program. That information is freely available to Aruba solution providers, Tennefoss said.
A lot of the vendors that have entered the overall Certified Partners ranks already were existing Aruba vendor partners, but others were recommended by Aruba solution providers. Formalizing interoperability with some vendors has also brought Aruba new potential partners, Tennefoss said.
Participation in ArubaEdge by other vendors isn't free, but Aruba will discount its products for vendors that don't already have them to test for interoperability. In many cases, said Tennefoss, Aruba will waive the participation costs associated with ArubaEdge because the other vendor has agreed to waive costs for Aruba joining its partner program, as well.
ArubaEdge arrives as Aruba continues to fine-tune its overall partnering strategy -- an evolution that's made the wireless vendor more channel friendly than any other time in its history.
Aruba PartnerEdge, which is the formal VAR partner program that launched more than three years ago, has also seen continued updates, including the overhauled Aruba deal registration program launched last fall.
Aruba partners should bank on more enhancements, said Bob Bruce, vice president, worldwide channel sales, who with Aruba's executive team recently held the company's first-ever Aruba Partner Summit.
"Aruba's opportunity is there at our feet," said Bruce. "As mobility becomes paramount and the market continues to expand and get more complex, the partners are going to have the tools that make them successful."