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Aruba's technology purview has expanded, both organically and via a string of acquisitions -- AirWave in 2008, Azalea and Amigopod in 2010, Avenda in 2011 -- to include products and platforms such as ClearPass, which offers MDM and a range of additional features most MDM vendors don't provide, all on a single appliance.
Aruba's Harold said the recently introduced partner specialization for ClearPass has taken off in the channel, in part due to partners that now have an Aruba product inroad into competitive wireless LAN deployments.
"The nice thing is that they're seeing opportunities to manage both Aruba and non-Aruba environments with this," he explained.
Other recent, successful launches included Instant, which offers virtualized Aruba Mobility Controller functions on 802.11n access points; Instant Enterprise, which moves controller functions to the access points themselves and includes features such as voice and video optimization; and Activate, which boosts the ability to manage large-scale, distributed Wi-Fi environments.
Products such as Instant Enterprise would have been a surprise for the Aruba of even a few years ago, Aruba partners said.
"What's come into the wireless space is almost this holy war of controller vs. controller-less," Accuvant's Welsh said. "Aruba was always historically inclined toward the controller as the way to go, and they dismissed the other guys as ankle-biters. But they saw the success some of those guys were having in K-12 and other spaces, and I think they responded with the Instant platform and other things they've done."
It's made Aruba a more versatile vendor, Welsh said.
"Controller-less technology does have some viability -- some wings to fly on. So I think Aruba's made a statement that I can do both, and do both with stronger security measures than the other guys," he said. "They're not just targeting wireless LAN enterprise. Now it's a much bigger story and much more attractive in more of the market."
On top of those product launches, Aruba's MOVE, or Mobile Virtual Enterprise architecture, has been a successful framework for delivering cloud and mobility solutions using various Aruba products and leveraging concepts such as context-aware networking. It's also built a strong network of strategic vendor allies, including the more than 80 partners in its ArubaEdge Partner Program and the much smaller number of ArubaEdge Solution Partners that submit to in-depth interoperability testing with Aruba wares.
Taken all together, Aruba has a formidable strategy for addressing the explosion of corporate mobile devices and the BYOD challenge faced by most businesses. ZK Research's Kerravala said 82 percent of companies that would logically represent Aruba customers have some kind of BYOD plan, according to the research firm's most recent estimates.
"That's a very big TAM [total addressable market] to go after for Aruba, especially when you look at the overall competitive landscape," he said. "Cisco doesn't sell a whole lot of wireless outside its base, Motorola tends to only win inside [former] Symbol accounts, and then you have a bunch of little guys with interesting solutions that a lot of mainstream enterprises don't want to take a chance on. Aruba has a viable game here, with good timing, and they're continuing to close the gaps they had in product."
The product strength has added oomph to Aruba's earnings. For Aruba's fiscal first quarter, reported Nov. 15, it posted revenue of $144.5 million -- a 21 percent increase over the year-earlier quarter -- though with a GAAP loss of $800,000, wider than the $500,000 it had in the first quarter of the previous year. Orr and other executives highlighted key Aruba product launches as well as its 14th straight quarter of record revenue and strengthening presence in key vertical markets.
The result is that more Wall Street tech stock analysts have taken note.
"We believe the company sits between the 802.11n product cycle of '09-'11 and the Bring Your Own Device-driven 802.11ac upgrade cycle starting late '13," wrote Ehud Gelblum, managing director for Morgan Stanley, in a mid-November research note. "However, we believe that Aruba's products are best in class and we expect Aruba to increase its position of strength in core enterprise accounts. The new breed of vendors pursuing SMBs, K-12s and service providers is unlikely to constitute a threat to Aruba in the enterprise."
That kind of increased visibility will only help its channel progress, partners agreed.
"Six or seven years ago, they had to work on their brand," said NetConnect's Ambrosole. "But I don't have to sell the company anymore. People know who they are and they have that presence."
Aruba's position is that the profit behind the BYOD opportunity is there for partners willing to seize it, Aruba's Gibson said.
"The Apple Genius Bar can't be the answer for every BYOD thing," he said. "So it's about how do you enable that. BYOD begs for a great professional serves offering -- a truly consultative offering."