Aruba Exec: HP's Aruba Buy Makes Networking A 'Two Horse Race' With Cisco

Keerti Melkote

Hewlett-Packard's acquisition of Aruba Networks has finally made the networking industry a two-horse race with Cisco, one of Aurba's top executives told CRN.

Keerti Melkote, co-founder and chief officer of Aruba Networks, which was acquired by HP in a deal that closed in May, told CRN last month that Aruba is in the process of being integrated by its new parent company, and by next month expects to start talking about joint road maps.

Before the acquisition, HP had a solid networking business based on its 2010 acquisition of 3Com. Aruba brings HP one of the industry's top wireless networking vendors.

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Bringing together the wired and wireless networking worlds is a top priority for HP, Melkote said.

"We see the need for a unified management console for Aruba wireless and HP wired infrastructure," he said. "We are also looking for a way to do SDN (software-defined networking) between wired and wireless infrastructure, and at doing unified policies between the two."

The move comes at a time when the campus switching market is already declining, which means networking growth will come from the wireless side, Melkote said. "But wired's not going away," he said. "We need wired networking on the back end."

This is especially important as the 802.11ac Wave 2, or second generation of the 802.11ac wireless networking standard, comes to market, Melkote said.

"Over-the-air networking bandwidth exceeds 1 Gbit per second," he said. "But wired access today maxes at 1 Gbit. So we see a campus network refresh needed to support multi-Gbit technology."

With the changes going on in the networking industry, HP with Aruba will ultimately be fighting in the market with Cisco, Melkote said.

"Cisco is first in the wired networking market, with wireless the cherry on top," he said. "We are wireless-first. Ultimately, that's why we came to HP. We see the opportunity, but needed the scale to go both up-market and down-market. HP has the scale, the partnerships, to make this happen."

Cisco will fight back hard, making the business a two-horse race between Cisco and HP, Melkote said.

"But HP, with Aruba, now has about a 20 percent market share in networking," he said. "No one has ever had this large a share before, other than Cisco, because Cisco is so dominating in the market."

Cisco is not standing still as HP and Aruba conspire to take market share.

Cisco made its first major foray into the business wireless networking market with its 2012 acquisition of Meraki.

Cisco this year also unveiled an investment in 6Wind, a Paris-based developer of software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) technology. That followed HP's acquisition of SDN innovator ConteXtream, a provider of OpenDaylight-based, carrier-grade SDN fabric.

Aruba will mean a very bright future for HP's networking business, said Rich Baldwin, CIO and chief strategy officer at Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based solution provider and longtime HP partner.

"We're already seeing in some areas where wireless connections are faster than wired," Baldwin told CRN. "It's still a limiting factor to find a wired network to plug into. And the Aruba approach is phenomenal. It's game-changing technology."

Wireless is the future, and Aruba is the wireless leader, Baldwin said. "So now HP is the leader," he said. "Most people in tech still have desktops. That will change for most of us. HP is now very well positioned for this."

Gary Hutchins, director of solutions architecture at VeriStor Systems, an Atlanta-based solution provider and longtime HP partner, told CRN he is excited to see HP's acquisition of Aruba.

"We believe that HP has strong SDN technology in the data center, but its message has been washed out," Hutchins said. "But when you add in the wireless piece with Aruba, this gives HP a holistic approach to networking."