First-Ever Aruba Wireless SMB Option, Instant On, Emerges

Aruba Networks is taking aim at the small business wireless market with its first-ever wireless offering for SMB customers, Aruba Instant On.


Aruba Networks is unveiling its first wireless product line entirely focused on the needs of SMB customers that takes aim at the likes of small business Wi-Fi vendors and Cisco's Meraki line.

The new line of wireless access points, Aruba Instant On, was designed with simplicity in mind. But the "enterprise-grade" offering will help move the needle on the types of wireless experiences that small businesses will be able to offer their customers, not to mention, the doors it will open for channel partners, Keerti Melkote, Aruba's founder and president, told CRN in an exclusive interview.

"Aruba is known as the brand that allows customers to step up to the game that the big boys play," Melkote said.

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Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, saw a gap between what SMBs were buying from the likes of SMB Wi-Fi specialists such as Ubiquity Networks and Netgear compared to the wireless technology that enterprises had access to from premier networking vendors like Aruba. "Nobody has taken an enterprise-grade capability and brought it down to the market to the small business market needs," Melkote said. "That's really what we saw as the opportunity and the opening to go into that space."

The Instant On portfolio includes indoor and outdoor 802.11ac Wave 2 access points that can provide a secure, high-speed wireless connection with hassle-free set-up and management of up to 25 access points or 100 people or less, according to Santa Clara, Calif.-based Aruba. At the request of partners, the product line includes a mobile app that can be used by solution providers or end customers for quick deployment and ongoing management.

Aruba Instant On takes the stability and reliability "goodness" that enterprises have come to expect from the Aruba Instant line, the firm's cloud-managed, controllerless Wi-Fi offering, and repackages that functionality into a simple solution that's a great fit for channel partners who are trying to cater to smaller business and those partners that are transitioning to a managed services model, Melkote said.

"Now, partners can take the Aruba brand across the board to all their customers, especially the regional VARs," he said.

Solution providers have been serving their larger and mid-sized customers with the traditional portfolio of wireless solutions from some of the largest networking vendors, but the channel has been forced to go with other brands to serve their smaller clients. Aruba's wireless offering for SMBs represents a "multi-billion dollar" expansion opportunity for partners, he said.

Aruba Instant On could possibly be a "Ubiquiti killer," said Gary Berzack, CTO at eTribeca, a New York City-based Aruba partner.

"There's many businesses that grow to several locations, for example, that aren't ready to buy high-end wireless solutions who also don't want to spend the money on Meraki," Berzack said. Aruba Instant On could be a very good fit for these kinds of small business customers, he added.

eTribeca has SMB customers that it is primarily serving today with wireless solutions from Aeorhive Networks. "I'd also be fascinated to know what the upgrade path is, if there is any, if [these customers] want to do more in the future," Berzack said.

According to market research firm IDC, two-thirds of SMBs will include digital transformation as a key part of their IT strategies by the end of 2023. Digital transformation, IDC said, is putting new demands on SMB communications infrastructure including wireless LANs. These companies are looking for easy-to-manage Wi-Fi solutions that can scale as needed, Melkote said. That's where partners come in.

The business model for Aruba Instant On will be similar to what partners expect from Aruba's enterprise-class products. The firm said that in addition to earning similar margins compared to other Wi-Fi products in Aruba's portfolio, solution providers can also earn managed services revenue, or pull in added revenue for analytics and security.

The first round of Aruba Instant On access points will begin shipping in early July and will start at a price of $119, Aruba said.