New Aruba Offering Drives Branch Networking Tools To The Cloud

Aruba on Tuesday updated its Virtual Branch Networking platform with new products and services that find the wireless vendor expanding into several new markets and sharpening its strategy around cloud.

The move has broad implications for Aruba channel partners, Aruba executives explained, especially Aruba partners looking to expand their focuses into WAN acceleration, network security and other adjacent areas.

Among the new services in Virtual Branch Networking (VBN) 2.0 are Application Acceleration Service, for better application performance, Content Delivery Network, a subscription-based file-caching service, and Content Security Service, a network security offering that provides what Aruba calls advanced data protection, through the cloud, to all ends of the distributed enterprise.

"The branch office historically started as a replica of a small corporate campus of a facility headquarters," said Michael Tennefoss, Aruba's head of strategic marketing, in an interview. "Everything done in HQ was duplicated in the branch office and that meant lots of CPU-intensive, multi-function appliances providing the firewall, security, routing functions, wireless LAN ... it was all multiple boxes that had to be configured, managed and updated every few years."

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With the 1.0 release of VBN, Tennefoss said, Aruba was looking to help rightsize the cost of corporate data centers by minimizing the cost and labor of all that configuration.

VBN 2.0 does that platform one better, he said, by moving a lot of those processes into subscription- and cloud-based service models that will create upsell opportunities on existing accounts for Aruba VARs.

"A number of these are essential services that all the mobile workforce needs but that are very expensive to provision," Tennefoss explained. "But the cloud can deliver all those business critical applications and functions that are needed. This is the beginning of the end for the branch router."

Next: Application Acceleration Service

Application Acceleration Service provides WAN optimization and acceleration while minimizing WAN costs, Tennefoss argued, because it relies on an application server sitting inside the enterprise data center, with no new hardware needed.

Content Delivery Network, another of the new services, allows enterprises to rely on distributed data centers around the world to efficiently move large volumes of data around without latency and with minimal WAN connection because it uses local connections and relieves data traffic on pieces of the WAN.

"Again, this is a no-new-hardware solution," Tennefoss said. "We're rightsizing a number of costs for the branch office."

Content Security Service (CSS), another new offering, moves certain content security functions to the cloud by instructing Remote Access Points (RAPs) to move Internet-bound traffic to the most efficient CSS points available.

"The way in which these kinds of content have been protect in the past has either been to require all the transmissions to go back through big filters at the data center, or deploy the content filtering in every branch," Tennefoss said. "That's either not bandwidth-efficient or oppressively expensive. So for us, the RAP redirects Internet-bound traffic to the nearest Content Security Service enforcement point for inspection. Each traffic request and its contents are scanned."

CSS is available as a subscription, priced by user count, duration and features, in 100 and 1,000 user increments, and in lengths of 1 and 3 years. The Standard Bundle, Tennefoss said, includes anti-malware, anti-virus and URL filtering. The Advanced Bundle takes the Standard Bundle and adds web security features like botnet detection, browser access control and granular control of social networking and web-based e-mail and messaging tools. The Premium Bundle includes both the Standard and Advanced features but also adds bandwidth control, and data loss prevention, tailored to meet regulatory compliance if need be.

Next: Aruba's Virtual Intranet Access

The last new element for 2.0 is Virtual Intranet Access (VIA), which replicates the functions of the RAPs but runs inside laptops. Essentially, said Tennefoss, it provides all the accessibility and security of the corporate network, and updates are automatically pushed out to VIA clients. Aruba currently will offer VIA support for Windows XP SP2+, Windows Vista and Windows 7 environments.

"Because VIA is built into the Aruba controller, there's no additional fee for it," Tennefoss said. "Whatever you capacity you purchased for your controller, you get that same number of VIA clients."

Tennefoss said Aruba has undertaken a broad training program to bring Aruba partners up to speed on VBN 2.0. More than 60 partners had completed the training so far, he said.

He also acknowledged that thanks to the network security and WAN acceleration aspects of VBN 2.0., not to mention the cloud networking focus, the moves will bring Aruba into competition with vendors it hasn't gone head-to-head with in the past.

"This is very good news for channel partners and not great news if you're in the branch router business," he said. "Because Aruba has not been in a lot of these markets before, we look at them with completely fresh eyes. We don't have the challenge of an installed base to deal with."

All of the new services can be acquired as upgrades from VBN 1.0, and only AAS requires a new data center server, he said. Content Security Service pricing begins at $45 per user, per year, Application Acceleration Server begins at $255 per RAP, and Content Delivery Network pricing is based on storage requirements.

"Business is changing, and 88 percent of employees in a given enterprise now work outside of corporate headquarters," Tennefoss said. "There's a proliferation of mobile devices that are very powerful computing platforms. We want to be ahead of the curve in making branch access more affordable and a lot easier. If you're not doing that you're missing a huge enterprise opportunity."