HPE Aruba Launches First-Ever Combined Network Solutions -- Aiming At Cisco's Share

Less than nine months after Hewlett-Packard -- now Hewlett Packard Enterprise -- closed its $3 billion acquisition of wireless vendor Aruba Networks, the combined company is launching its first-ever integrated networking technologies, aiming at taking enterprise market share from Cisco.

"Now there's actually a unified story to tell," said Bill Carr, chief mobility architect at Malvern, Pa.-based Comm Solutions, a longtime Aruba partner. "The fact that in such a short period of time, we have some cohesiveness between the wired infrastructure and HP Smart Rate technology in the Aruba access points really proves that there must have not only been a plan, but an agreement to execute relatively quickly. … Our enterprise customers are becoming more welcoming to an alternative to Cisco."

HPE Aruba launched a new suite of integrated networking and software solutions enabling enterprises to provide solutions to the rise of digitization, bring your own device (BYOD) and the Internet of Things, said Christian Gilby, director of product marketing at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.

[Related: Cisco Security Exec: Vendors Like Palo Alto, FireEye Are Selling 'Legacy Technology']

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The new integrated solutions include multi-gigabit Aruba access points with HPE Smart Rate technology, a software module for Aruba AirWave network management, ClearPath Policy Manager version 6.6, and a unified operating system -- ArubaOS-Switch -- which integrates the best features and capabilities from the ArubaOS and HPE ProvisionOS operating systems, according to the company.

"We're bringing the best of both worlds together for the first time," said Gilby, in an interview with CRN. "We're positioned really well here for success, and our approach is pretty differentiated [from] a Cisco."

Gilby said that with all of the acquisitions Cisco has done, the networking giant has implemented network technology into many different architectures.

"The competition usually has multiple architectures, and if you switch [among them], you have to swap out access points, for example," said Gilby. "We believe in providing the tool kit for customers so they can basically add the tools they need as they grow. … In terms of how we're going to actually accelerate and deliver to customers is really tying all the software and hardware together, rather than maintaining separate products."

Worldwide switching and router revenue hit $41 billion in 2015, according to data from Synergy Research Group, with Cisco still dominating in the enterprise.

For the fourth quarter in 2015, Cisco owned around 62 percent of the enterprise switching market, followed by HPE, F5 Networks, then Arista Networks, according to Synergy. Cisco also captured 69 percent market share in the enterprise routing market for the quarter, followed by Juniper, HPE and Huawei, according to the research firm.

"Cisco has a stranglehold on a good portion of the marketplace, but I think the [Aruba] acquisition and the integration gives an alternative for those who are open to not necessarily pursuing an all-Cisco environment," said Comm Solutions' Carr.

Aruba is launching new 802.11ac Wave 2 access points integrated with HPE Smart Rate technology to provide maximum performance to bandwidth-intensive applications as well as high quality for latency-sensitive applications, such as Microsoft Skype for Business and Wi-Fi calling, according to Gilby. The new access points come with integrated Bluetooth Low Energy. Additionally, the new Aruba 3810 switch series with Smart Rate allows enterprises to deliver data rates of 1/2.5/5/10 Gbps.

The 3810 series and existing portfolio of Aruba 2530, 2920 and 5400R campus switches are all powered with the new ArubaOS-Switch -- a unified operating system aimed at combining the best features and capabilities from the ArubaOS and HPE ProvisionOS operating systems. By integrating the two technologies, Aruba said, these "next generation" switches enable real-time programmability without the need to sacrifice line-rate packet-forwarding performance.

Gilby said all HPE legacy switches are going to now be branded as Aruba going forward.

The new multi-gigabit Aruba 330 series access points will be available in the second quarter of 2016 and priced at $1,695. The 3810 switches are available now with pricing starting at $4,299.

Aruba also unveiled its new ClearPath Policy Manager version 6.6, giving security teams the ability to create policies that adapt to BYOD growth and the challenges around Internet of Things adoption. Version 6.6 enables custom device profiling for any uncategorized connected device, multifactor authentication on mobile devices for network usage and deeper forensics into security incidents, according to the company.

"ClearPath for us has been very successful," said Carr. "Now they added customer profiling in, so that's going to be really important for our health-care and utility customers, because they have a lot of one-off devices they really want to treat differently as they access the network. They haven’t been able to do that up until now."

Gilby said with the new ClearPath, partners can build a solution they can manage and secure from a single pane of glass across the network. ClearPath is integrated with next-generation firewalls from Palo Alto Networks and utilizes technology from partnerships with Duo Security and ImageWare for network and application threat protection in real time.

ClearPath 6.6 will become available in April as a software upgrade with no additional costs for existing customers with valid service contracts.

The final new solution HPE Aruba unveiled is Aruba Clarity, a new software-monitoring module for Aruba's new AirWave 8.2 network management. Clarity proactively monitors a broad set of metrics to deliver intuitive forensics so customers can anticipate and quickly resolve connectivity problems before the user is affected.

"This is a great opportunity for partners to create a managed offering where they manage the wired and wireless network," said Gilby. "Clarity helps enable that for partners, because it moves away from [what was done] in the past, where you would troubleshoot after the fact -- with Clarity, it's proactive and predictive."

Enhancements to the new AirWave version 8.2 includes features that allow for time-lapse visualization of Wi-Fi converged to dramatically reduce the time and manual intervention it takes for wireless network engineers to identify negative trends in Wi-Fi coverage, according to Gilby.

AirWave 8.2 and Clarity will become available later this month.

Gilby said the new combined HPE Aruba has invested in cross-training and educating channel partners on each other's technology. "We're educating partners who were focused on wireless to get them up to speed on wired, and vice versa," he said.

Carr, a longtime Aruba partner, said the acquisition opens up the door for more overall services opportunities.

"The services opportunities for partners just get wider and wider with the HPE acquisition, because it gives us [an entry] into that wired space we didn't have visibility into before," said Carr.