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Aruba Networks, Pensando Team To ‘Take On The Giants’ With ‘Industry-First’ Distributed Services Switch

‘It’s fun to take on the big competitors and bring them down,’ says former Cisco CEO and Pensando Chairman John Chambers on the two companies’ new distributed services switch that brings software-defined services and security right to where the data is being processed.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise-owned Aruba Networks has been working with edge computing startup Pensando Systems in “stealth” on a first of its kind switch series that addresses distributed services, the two companies revealed on Tuesday.

The new Aruba CX 1000, a distributed services switch, is a brand-new category of data center switches that combine Aruba‘s data center switching expertise with Pensando’s programmable data processing unit (DPU), known as Pensando Elba, to bring zero-trust security to the network-server edge, closer to users and applications, the two companies said.

“Our dream of democratizing the cloud; giving the capability for any major hyperscaler to compete with AWS and now bringing it down to any enterprise or government agency. Today you’re seeing the next major phase where we take these concept and we’re going to revolutionize the switching industry,” former Cisco CEO and Pensando Chairman John Chambers (pictured above) said on Tuesday during a joint HPE and Pensando event.

The two companies are sending a “tremendous” challenge to the market, Chambers said. “We have a chance to change a whole market and take on the giants … it‘s fun to take on the big competitors and bring them down.”

[Related: Keerti Melkote On The Aruba Team’s ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’ And His Future Plans: Exclusive]

“This is the next generation of competition -- it’s the evolution of the data center security market,” said Bill Tracy, VP of technology solutions for Structured Communication Systems, an Aruba partner.

To address the data center edge, it‘s been a combination of hypervisor-based security point solutions and hardware and software that’s had to be cobbled together. Aruba and Pensando's distributed services switch series offers an integrated private data center networking and security edge solution for Portland, Ore.-based Structured’s customers, Tracy said.

“I think this is going to open up the market where we couldn‘t win with other solutions before,” he said.

HPE first teamed with Pensando on edge security capabilities with the Pensando Distributed Services Platform (DSP) as an option on some of HPE servers and the HPE GreenLake pay-per-use platform in 2020. Tuesday‘s announcement brings those capabilities onto a switch form factor. “[This] opens up the 48-port, top of rack switch here to have all of our networking goodness and the operating system, but you’ll also have the integration of the Pensando DPU for that stateful service acceleration that customers can now begin to deploy,” John Gray, Aruba’s Data Center Marketing Lead, told CRN.

It‘s a big market differentiator for Aruba, Gray said. “Cisco, Arista, Dell, Juniper -- no one else in the market has this industry-first technology in the market in this form factor,” he said.

The new distributed services switch is a good fit for enterprises that have “gotten a taste” of public cloud, but also want to have the same operational experience within their private and hybrid cloud environments, Gray said. It also provides east-west firewalling -- something many businesses don‘t have in place today -- that protects against attackers moving laterally inside the data center once it’s breached, he said.

“To try to solve this today, you‘d have to hairpin all that traffic back up to this centralized security model, which is low performing. It’s inefficient, it takes up bandwidth of a network, it’s just not a good solution,” he said. “Even if you have enough money to throw at it, each of these firewalls could be half a million dollars each.”

The Aruba CX 1000 distributes software-defined security services from Pensando right where data is being created and processed, right at the top of the rack, Gray said. “This switch will have 100 times the scale 10 times the performance at 1/3, the cost of what a customer would have to do in terms of traditional switching, traditional hardware firewall, or agents on the servers themselves,” he said.

While the switch series takes aim at the networking and data center incumbents, it doesn‘t compete with security products, like perimeter firewalls, Gray said.

“We’re not going head to head with the Checkpoints, Fortinets, and Palo Altos of the world,” he said. “This is a very complementary solution, and there’s an opportunity for partners to embed different security policies that other vendors might have.”




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