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Aruba Channel Leaders: The Market Is Ready For NaaS

Gina Narcisi

Ahead of Aruba Atmosphere, VP of Channels Jim Harold and Channel Chief Donna Grothjan talks to CRN about Aruba’s new Services Tracks for partners and why now is the time for NaaS.

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The NaaS 'Easy Button’

Aruba Networks was one of the first networking giants out of the gate with an everything-as-a-service (XaaS) offering around networking thanks to its parent company, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and its GreenLake platform, now with a standardized version of Networking as a Service (NaaS) that was announced earlier this month. The offering, now converged with the Aruba Central platform, is lowering the barrier to entry into NaaS by simplifying the process and giving partners more choice into how they want to go to market and how much management they want to take on.

To that end, Aruba for the last year has been focused on investing in the channel, especially around the as a service trend and how to better service managed service providers. The San Jose, Calif.-based company wants to help partners earn more recurring revenue, and that path involves understanding and building practices around consumption-based IT, according to Aruba channel executives.

Jim Harold, Aruba’s vice president of channels and Channel Chief Donna Grothjan sat down with CRN ahead of Aruba Atmosphere 2022 to discuss the managed service opportunity, Aruba’s new Services Tracks for partners, and why all signs pointing to the market being ready for NaaS.

Here are excerpts from the conversation.

Is the market — and channel partners — ready for NaaS?

Grothjan: One of the things that’s obviously important for us is to continue to test the market to make sure that it’s ready for what we're bringing to market. A new IDC study said that 69 percent of the individuals that companies surveyed have already or will deploy NaaS by 2024 and 60 percent of them said that they will fund — not “I will consider” but will actually fund — opex IT projects by 2025. For us, all of the market indicators are there to say that mass adoption is ready.

Two years ago, we launched the Aruba [Edge Services Platform] ESP and one of the things that we have been communicating to the market is that the ability to accelerate [partner] recurring revenue through SaaS or NaaS solutions is a focus for us. What we announced at HP GreenLake day was, first of all, the convergence of Aruba Central with the HPE GreenLake platform. Essentially, the intention is to provide customers one easy to use platform that enables them to transform and modernize their organizations. We announced that the networking services are now available on the platform, which enables the complete edge to cloud platform, because we've talked about that as a strategy. With the announcement is now a true, edge to cloud platform. Previously, there was compute, storage, and data services. Now we have the availability of connectivity services. These SKU-based NaaS service packs — that’s how you'll hear us speak about it in the market — are bundling hardware, software and the services and is inclusive of customer experience support services — into a single offering that now is available to our partners and customers in a monthly financial model. These are purpose built with a partner in mind.

Almost 18 months ago, we announced a customized NaaS offering right into the market, which essentially takes the same leading Aruba technology that we have, and we packaged it up to enable our customers to be to be able to buy in a subscription form and we could do the management of their network, if that's what the customers chose to do as opposed to the partners. It was a co-sell motion, but it was really centered around large deals. What we brought to the market [now] is really taking that same leading Aruba technology, but packaging these highly scalable, new offerings that really are simplified. It’s driving recurring revenue for our partners, which we know was really important to them today.

What do you expect adoption of NaaS to be like right away?

Harold: NaaS is going to help grow adoption of [XaaS] very quickly, because it’s like the easy button. It’s very partner-friendly. You don't have to worry about the complexity of doing a unique [statement of work] SOW. We’ve put these into consumable, kind of bite-sized, very specific offerings, like Indoor Wireless. So, there's a set price per month and [the partner] figures out: “Okay, I need 1,000 access points.” So, it’s that monthly fee times 1,000 that gets you to your quote, and then the partner can add additional services on top of it — they can do Day Zero or Day One support or installation, and then other services that they want to overlay on top. But it just makes it very easy for them to quote NaaS right off the bat. We think this is going to be a big, big plus and winner for our partners.

How big is the opportunity around NaaS for partners?

Grothjan: The services piece is [where] I think we see the largest opportunity for the partners. When we think about the NaaS journey, there's more opportunity for the partners, the more than they actually want to do. So, that’s what we really mean when we talk about partner choice; it's really about choice in terms of how they want to deliver to the market and how they want to deliver to customers. There’s the ability from just a pure [Aruba] Central perspective that they're selling SaaS and a SaaS subscription, and then you now have the SKU-based NaaS or service packages that really gives them that easy entry into NaaS and enables them to then start monthly billing in terms of the overall NaaS offering.

Obviously, we’ll still continue with the model where there can be an Aruba-owned model, which was that custom model, but here’s where it really accelerates for the partner: They can take these service packages and they can sell the subscription of the service package and then they can wrap their own services and actually manage the network on behalf of the customer. And then, if they choose to create their own managed services practice where they're the ones packaging up and selling their own managed services, then they also have that capability. [Partners] can work with Aruba in a capex and opex model. They can decide that they want to build and launch a specific solution, or they can buy the easy service packages that we’ve created.

How is Aruba helping partners develop deeper expertise in managed services and XaaS?

Grothjan: We know that managed services are really important to partners and businesses, and we see that growth happening. The margin model for a partner increases the more that they are doing their own, [like] owning equipment or managing themselves. At atmosphere, we launched new services tracks. The whole point here is to acknowledge partner expertise in their specific services capabilities. But we also want to help them develop deeper expertise in Aruba by sharing and developing best practices, sharing the methodologies tools, and certainly, subject matter expert support.

The [first is] a Managed Services track, which we've had a Managed Services program, but we’re continuing to evolve that. I think what's important for the Managed Services piece is to know that within [Aruba] Central, we continue to enhance the MSP load, so as an example, to allocate and reallocate licenses and devices in an extremely flexible model. This really allows them to shift devices easily between their customers as needed as they’re managing their environments and we're making it easier for them to actually make their shifts. We’ve also created an integration or API's that allow our MSPs to integrate — like if they are as an example, a ConnectWise MSP.

The other two new areas are Customer Success and Professional Services. With the Customer Success track, we have built up a methodology and we're enabling our partners in those methodologies. We’ve created success playbooks, templates, [and] best practices, [and] we're providing the telemetry and the coaching on the ability to access that telemetry to actually turn those into services and support services for their customers. In addition to that, we’ve launched the Professional Services track. When you think about the methodologies that we're using today, we want to ensure that our partners have the same capability to do the delivery services for their customers. With that, we have Aruba Global Services, where they are advising and providing coaching and oversight to these partners that are participating in this particular center of expertise. We will provide access to network design templates and best practices and again, sample SOWs for our partners. When you think about where they’re spending the investment of their time, —if they're technical teams — we’re trying to make that easier, and enabling them to quote, their customers quicker and design by these sample SOWs. We're enabling a technical community around them. So, the point here is, is that partners can choose to build or expand our services practices at their own pace.

What investments has Aruba made in its channel over the last year?

Harold: Over the last year, and specifically in the last six months, we've really increased our channel investments. We’ve added new channel resources and we've got more dedicated support, especially for our top partners, to do better planning — more of a one on one instead of one to many — and being a little more strategic that way. That’s helped quite a bit from a planning, development and execution standpoint. From there, there's been a lot of investment around sales and technical tools and enablement and tech workshops. We also have a solution we call the Aruba Value Advisor. This came to us through the acquisition with Silver Peak, and the Value Advisor really a strong ROI tool and we just started the expansion into covering the whole ESP platform. So, we've added ClearPass, wired wireless, etc. So, that’s going to be a really key tool for us in expanding with our partners, they love it, it helps them kind of expand their conversation and [move] upward within the account. It helps them differentiate and be a strategic advisor instead of just a seller and it impacts the overall qualification and win rate when working with an account. We think that's a real winner and a key tool we’re expanding around ESP.

We started the year off strong and we're really happy that we’re seeing a lot of our [partners] with double-digit, year over year growth. We're seeing business being strong from the partner community. We also are seeing very strong momentum in our ESP platform we announced about two years ago. It’s really helped us because from a partnership standpoint, it really does provide strong differentiation in the market, strong competitive positioning, and then a broader services opportunity.

Gina Narcisi

Gina Narcisi is a senior editor covering the networking and telecom markets for CRN.com. Prior to joining CRN, she covered the networking, unified communications and cloud space for TechTarget. She can be reached at gnarcisi@thechannelcompany.com.

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