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Aruba Networks’ CEO: Remote Access Critical In Post-COVID-19 World

Aruba partners say that remote access solutions are especially en vogue right now, and the wireless specialist’s founder, Keerti Melkote, told CRN that these solutions will continue to be critical and highly demanded after the pandemic as working from home becomes the new norm.

Most businesses around the globe were forced to transition, in some cases overnight, to an entirely work-from-home environment due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Solution providers not only had to get their customers up and running with remote solutions very quickly, but they’re also faced with a new challenge: Servicing customers you can no longer physically touch.

Remote access solutions are critical now and they will continue to be key in a post-COVID-19 world, Keerti Melkote, co-founder and president of Aruba Networks, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, told CRN in an interview.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Aruba isn’t a stranger to large-scale health crises. The 18-year-old networking specialist in 2008 built a remote access point solution to address connectivity issues when the H5N1 Avian flu broke out. At the time, many financial services customers took advantage of the new Aruba Remote APs, which were deployed in the homes of executives to ensure business continuity during the epidemic.

But the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has been far more disruptive compared to previous epidemics with nearly every industry and educational institution across the globe having to connect its employees, staff and students remotely, Melkote said.

“Obviously, demand for [the remote AP] is through the roof,” he said. “There's a huge rise in the work-from-home use case and a dramatic increase in demand. The value proposition we offer is the transparent, secure and easy way to connect into a network,” Melkote said of the remote AP solution.

[Related: Aruba Networks' Keerti Melkote On COVID-19 ‘Accelerating’ Network Transformation Connectivity in Crisis ]

Demand for remote access solutions has been the “dominating” request that Sayers, an Aruba Platinum Partner, has been fielding since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., according to Joel Grace, vice president of engineering and emerging technologies for the Vernon Hills, Ill.-based Sayers.

“Many companies were not set up to have 1,000 employees suddenly remote,” Grace said.

Sayers has been selling Aruba’s Remote AP solutions to its customers in the financial and insurance industries. “It’s a very normal piece of their remote worker stack. The security benefit of the remote access points is that you can extend the corporate network experience to the home user on a corporate device, without connecting to their home networks.”

The alternative to the remote AP portfolio is the VPN client. However, the VPN was not designed to be an always-on solution, but rather, a tool for occasional use, Aruba’s Melkote said. Instead, Aruba’s remote AP architecture gives business users a stable, always-on connection in their homes, without mixing with the users’ home network.

“If you think about the person that used to go in the office every day who is now working from home, the last thing you want to change is how they work. The remote AP extends everything they know about the office network – the SSIDs, the authentication methods – they don’t have to learn something new to work from home, which is a big win for the end user,” added Saysers’ Grace.

DataVizion, a Lincoln, Neb.-based solution provider and Aruba Platinum partner, has been offering Aruba’s remote access solutions to its higher education and K-12 customers for years. So while many of its customers were already prepared for a work from anywhere scenario, DataVizion is still seeing an uptick in demand for these offerings, said Joel Rourke, Director of Sales at DataVizion.

“It’s been fun for us to creatively help the customer leverage the assets they already owned, and we’ve been making modifications or redeploying [these products] a little to give customers the success they need to have in this remote environment,” Rourke said.

Aruba’s products also make it easy for partners to avoid going to customer sites, which is a win, thanks to widespread stay-at-home mandates around the country, Rourke said.

“That’s the beauty of the deployment flexibility – we don’t need to be there,” he said. “These [products] can be plugged in, they phone home, and all the configuration and intelligence is already there.”

The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way Aruba develops products and services, according to Aruba’s Melkote. The wireless vendor has always had a cloud-first tilt, but Aruba is now prioritizing the management of every solution it offers from the cloud using Aruba Central, its cloud -based network management and monitoring solution for its switches, SD-WAN gateways and access points. Development of the remote access point portfolio has jumped to the front of the line on the development roadmap as Aruba works to empower more work to happen anywhere, securely, Melkote said.

For partners that have been trying to make the jump into managed services, cloud-based services, remote solutions and business continuity, Aruba’s offerings will help jump-start the conversation, he added.

“I think for partners, this is effectively an opportunity to really increase their services component as opposed to just being box sellers -- box resellers are certainly relevant and important -- but I think there's an opportunity to … really go beyond the box and offer value-added services on top because that provides a more sticky revenue stream,” Melkote said.

Joe Little, president of Laketec, an Aruba Platinum partner, said that his company has been focusing on managed services for a while and Aruba's offerings and focus on remote connectivity dovetail well into the North Olmsted, Ohio-based Laketec's existing strategy.

"COVID-19 is definitely bringing the partner and customer a little closer together because you're even more aligned and focused on being able to remotely support users," Little said. "It's helping the managed services conversation along."

At the same time, digital transformation that was already happening pre-COVID-19 will accelerate post-pandemic, Melkote said.

“If you ever had a doubt that digital is not foundational to your business, that doubt has been completely removed by how we've all basically come around to using digital platforms to continue our work and be productive,” he said.

IT projects that were de-prioritized or put on the backburner by customers because of the pandemic will likely be picked back up by the end of this year or early 2021, Laketec's Little added.

"The reality is, there's going to be an even higher demand once we do get to that spot because customers are now thinking about how prepared they were before [COVID-19] and what could happen in the future," he said. “Long-term, I think we are going to see a lot of good things come from this.”




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