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Gartner: HPE Aruba Bests Cisco Again In Critical Capabilities Networking Ranking

Gartner gave Aruba top marks in five of six use cases included in the report issued Thursday.

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, nearly a year after its clean sweep of Cisco Systems in Gartner's Critical Capabilities for Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure ranking, has defended its crown in five of the report's six categories.

"This serves as market validation that we are a vendor that channel partners can trust and do business with for the long term and provide them with an alternative to Cisco," said Lissa Hollinger, Aruba vice president of portfolio marketing. "It demonstrates Aruba's extensive, strong portfolio."

Gartner gave Aruba top marks in five of six use cases included in the report issued Thursday. The strong showing indicates the Sunnyvale, Calif., company, which placed first in only one category in 2016 before dominating every category last year, has put together a portfolio and strategy that resonates strongly with enterprise customers.

[RELATED: HPE Aruba Launches 'SD Branch,' Saying SD-WAN Competitors Can't Match Integration, Simplicity]

Citing Aruba's 8400 and 8320 core switches, as well as its AirWave and ClearPass network management and access control offerings, Gartner said Aruba offers "some of the most complete solutions on the market," adding that "Aruba's wired and wireless LAN solutions are suitable for consideration globally for all access layer opportunities."

Aruba was followed very closely, sometimes by as little as a hundredth of a point, by Cisco in most categories. Gartner said Cisco's strength comes from the sheer breadth of its portfolio, including its new Catalyst 9000 line of subscription-based switches.

Cisco, in a statement to CRN, noted that it has in the last year introduced products like the Catalyst 9000, and "has taken significant steps forward in thepast year to advance intent-based networking capabilities across its portfolio." The company "has seen an incredibly positive reaction from the market."

"We also believe that customers aren't considering individual use cases when making buying decisions," Cisco said. "Instead they are looking across their entire network in an effort to simplify, which is central to our intent-based networking approach."

All vendors, the research firm said, now must contend with rapidly shifting priorities and purchasing patterns among enterprise customers.

"As the market has evolved, standards-based access networking hardware has become less differentiated," Gartner said in the report. "Many enterprises now focus more on the features and functionality of network service applications when evaluating which vendor will best meet the organization's access network requirements. Additionally, enterprises are scrutinizing network service applications for WLAN-only and remote branch office connectivity, either on-premises or in a public or private cloud."

Perhaps Aruba's most significant victory came in the WLAN-Only Refresh/New Build category where it scored 4.13 out of 5 compared with third-place Cisco's score of 3.96.

The five categories Aruba won are Unified Wired and WLAN Access; Performance Stringent Applications; Multivendor Networking Environment; Remote Branch Office with Corporate HQ; and WLAN-Only Refresh/New Build.

With a 4.03 score in the Wired-Only Refresh/New Build category, Aruba slipped to third place behind Extreme Networks, which scored 4.05, and first-place Cisco, which scored 4.11. Aruba won the category in 2017 with a score of 3.96 while Cisco was fourth with a score of 3.76 behind New H3C with 3.8 and Extreme Networks at 3.77.

Aruba ranked tops in Gartner's Unified Wired and WLAN Access category with a score of 4.13, besting second-place Cisco at 4.10 and Extreme Networks with 4.02.

In the Performance Stringent Applications category, Aruba placed first with a 4.10 score, narrowly beating out second-place Cisco's 4.09 and outpacing third-place Extreme Networks' 3.92.

The Multivendor Networking Environments category saw Aruba outpace Cisco by a wide margin, scoring a 3.82 versus Cisco's fifth-place 3.48. Extreme Networks was second with a 3.76, followed by New H3C and Huawei, which scored 3.57 and 3.51, respectively.

Aruba and Cisco were very closely matched and pulled away from the rest of the field in the Remote Branch with Corporate HQ category. Aruba's 4.13 score bested Cisco's 4.12 and third-place Extreme Networks’ 3.97.

"One of the reasons we won five out of six categories is that one of Aruba's guiding principles is 'customer first, customer last,'” Hollinger said. "We're laser-focused on customers and designing products to address their pain points. Most channel partners want to use a multivendor strategy rather than be locked in to one vendor. Coming out as a leader in these use cases provides them with confidence that they can adopt Aruba. The company is open and supports popular open standards, provides APIs across the technology stack. Our customers can be sure our solutions will interoperate across the environment; our solutions will work with other solutions. They can adopt a best-of-breed environment rather than being forced to work with one vendor's solutions."

John Barker, CEO of Versatile Communications, a Marlborough, Mass., solution provider that works with Aruba, said it's no surprise that the vendor did so well in the Gartner ranking.

"I'm not shocked that they scored so well," Barker said. "They've stayed the course with a strategic plan to support not only wired and wireless, but management, access and security. They have a really well-rounded and complete portfolio to support our customers."

Barker said Versatile has seen excellent growth with Aruba and expects that growth to continue as the solution provider digs into Aruba's branch software-defined networking solutions, as well as its network access, applications and security capabilities.

Versatile’s primary focus is on health-care customers, but the company also recently closed a large multisite, multistate deal with a manufacturing firm for automated manufacturing capabilities. Aruba's offerings, Barker said provide the level of performance, management and security that customer required.

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