Aruba Partners Now 'Cautiously Optimistic' About HP Acquisition

Aruba Networks partners expressed reservations last week when it was reported that the company was in talks to be acquired by Hewlett-Packard. Now that the deal was confirmed by HP Monday, partners said they are more optimistic -- but still cautious -- about the future of the Aruba brand.

Aruba CEO Dominic Orr and Chief Strategy and Technology Officer Keerti Melkote will continue to lead mobile networking solutions following the convergence of the two companies, reporting to Antonio Neri, leader of HP Enterprise Group, according to both companies.

"It appears that they're going to let Dominic and Keerti lead the networking group and keep them very separate, autonomous, and this could be a good kind of change for HP -- a good direction to go down," said Bill Tracy, director of solution architecture at Portland, Ore.-based solution provider Structured Communication Systems, an Aruba and Juniper partner. "I feel much better about it than I did last week -- cautiously optimistic, though."

[Related: Aruba: Partners Will Profit From HP Acquisition, Open System Networking Vision]

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Tracy said the problems some partners have with HP don't stem from its products, but with its go-to-market strategy and partner program.

"If Aruba can come in and help influence that with the way they've gone to market and their partner program, I think that could be very powerful," said Tracy.

Another solution provider executive and Aruba partner said HP's partner program was one of the reasons his company left the vendor several years ago.

"Their partner program was too confusing to try to make money on, too much conflict in the channel -- it wasn't a good channel strategy," said the executive, who declined to be identified.

An Aruba executive told CRN that the company's partner program was key to the deal and was "valued' by HP.

"We are very, very proud of our Aruba partner program," said Greg Murphy, vice president of business operations for Aruba, in an interview with CRN. "We think the program that we built over the past 13 years is one of the things that HP really valued in Aruba and is one of the major reasons they looked to complete this transaction. … We fundamentally understand that our partners’ business models depend on their ability to deliver services, to be profitable and we are very, very supportive of that."

Aruba partners also said they were concerned that the acquisition could harm the company’s established relationships with Juniper Networks, Palo Alto Networks and Brocade Communications.

In a statement to partners, Orr said Aruba and HP share a vision of open system networking so partners can work with multiple vendors, rather than systems that "lead to vendor lock-in."

"ClearPass and AirWave’s multivendor support capabilities give you complete freedom to select your wireless and wired infrastructure vendor, or vendors, of choice," said Orr. "You will be working with the same Aruba."

"It does show that they're going to be open and willing to look at what some of those mixed environments look like. I really hope the Palo Alto relationship continues," said Structured Communication Systems’ Tracy. "I hope to see some levels of integration and management cohesion that they were talking about with Juniper, previously, to happen with HP and try to bring some unity to that in order to compete with Cisco."

NEXT: Status Of Aruba's OEM Arrangements

Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, which began OEMing its wireless networking portfolio from Aruba in 2005, is currently evaluating its options in the wake of the HP deal, said Rob Hemmerich, director of North America business development for Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, which is based outside Paris.

"We have an arrangement with Aruba that allows us to continue working with them for three years even in a change of ownership. They will continue to support us as an OEM," Hemmerich said in an interview with CRN Monday at the 2015 XChange Solution Provider conference in Dallas. "Short term there will be no disruptions. … People will ask lots of questions as they always do. obviously, but we're evaluating it and we have time to evaluate our options and make the right decisions."

Jennifer Follett contributed to this story.