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How Aruba Reduced 600 Hours Of Cisco Network Updates To Six Hours: Keerti Melkote

‘That customer experienced 600 hours that effectively the network was down- out of commission,’ says Aruba founder and President Keerti Melkote. ‘And with Aruba, they reduced that time to six hours and that was planned maintenance. That’s it. That’s remarkable. It‘s a real world example of the amount of time that a network operator gets back.’

A Fortune 100 company that made the switch four years ago from a Cisco Meraki wireless network to an Aruba “non-stop” network reduced its network update and maintenance time from a whopping 600 hours to just six hours, said Aruba founder and President Keerti Melkote.

The longtime Cisco network customer was so enamored with the Aruba wireless network that he posted the time savings to a Reddit group, said Melkote.

“That customer experienced 600 hours that effectively the network was down—out of commission,” said Melkote, who referenced the startling Aruba non-stop wireless network performance versus Cisco at the HPE Securities Analyst Meeting on Oct. 15. “And with Aruba, they reduced that time to six hours and that was planned maintenance. That’s it. That’s remarkable. It‘s a real-world example of the amount of time that a network operator gets back.”

[RELATED: Aruba To Raise Stakes In Edge Battle With Cisco, Palo Alto Networks By Integrating ClearPass Into Silver Peak]

Key to the dramatic reduction in the time it takes to do network upgrades is an Aruba feature called Live Upgrade, which allows managed devices and access points to be automatically upgraded without network downtime.

The non-stop live upgrade feature is one of the benefits associated with ArubaOS, the network operating system that Aruba has been working on for nearly two decades, said Melkote.

“This [Aruba non-stop network advantage] is about taking ArubaOS, making it highly robust and highly non-stop,” said Melkote in an interview with CRN. “We‘ve been at it for 18 years now. That has been all additive. We’ve added adaptive radio management. We’ve added client manager. We’ve added clustering. We’ve added zero-touch operations. We’ve added software upgrades. I can keep going in terms of capabilities that build on each other. That is why I fundamentally believe the distance we have between us and Cisco is vast.”

Melkote said he was not able to publicly name the customer because they wanted to remain anonymous, but he described the customer as “a super large multinational” Fortune 100-type customer.

In the Reddit thread, the person posting the comments said he was an engineering manager at a large corporation who was initially against the switch to Aruba and almost lost his job. “I will say that it was the best decision and I think Aruba is freakin’ awesome,” the engineering manager said in a post. “Their automation and deployment methods are far superior.”

The engineering manager said that although the switch to Aruba began four years ago, his company still has 8,000 Cisco Access Points in the network.

“We will be done with it soon enough,” said the engineering manager. “Currently at almost 40,000 (Aruba) AP‘s and 450 controllers globally. Go look into Live Upgrade - that feature is probably one of the best things they ever did. We went from 600 hours to upgrade our Cisco devices to 6. - yes 6, with no impact either.”

CRN reached out to the person who posted the Reddit threat but had not heard back at press time.

Cisco told CRN that the “customer’s experience, having chosen to switch away from Cisco four years ago, certainly isn’t an accurate reflection of the current state of play” between Aruba and Cisco. “We’re incredibly happy with how we stack up against Aruba from both a Meraki and Cisco perspective currently, and we’re happy to share plenty of stories (ones that aren’t unverified, anonymous Reddit sources) of customers who have made the switch,” said Cisco in a statement.

Furthermore Cisco said it offers “essentially the same technology” as HPE Aruba’s Live Upgrade with its ISSU (In-Service Software Upgrade) technology. “This technology has been available on the wireless side since our IOS-XE 17.3 GA release in August of this year (and we just published this blog in August),” said Cisco in the statement. “Cisco Meraki also offers two memory partitions so devices can continue normal operations while updating. This means the customer in question would have seen roughly the same time savings with Cisco technology as with Aruba technology—representing a broader shift in networking technology, but certainly not a differentiator for Aruba or Cisco.”

As to the average network upgrade and maintenance return on investment that customers get when they move from Cisco to Aruba, Melkote said: “I can only relay what customers tell me which is that once they have migrated from Cisco to Aruba their downtimes have gone down dramatically. The system just works. I don’t have to pet it all the time or keep taking it down and maintain it for maintenance. That is fundamentally it.”

A key advantage for Aruba over Cisco is a cloud-native architecture that favors simplicity over complexity, said Melkote.

“This has been a multi-year journey for us, getting the foundational operating system to be re-architected and rebuilt with availability and high ROI in mind,” said Melkote. “What Cisco tries to do architecturally is they take the mobility wireless traffic and try to put it on the switch infrastructure. Everything points to a switch in the Cisco “

For Aruba, the switch is a transport vehicle, said Melkote. “But the intelligence doesn‘t need to land on a switch,” he said. “The intelligence needs to be in the software. And that software is delivered in the form of on-premises code on the controllers, and through the cloud with (Aruba) ESP (Edge Services Platform). It’s unified and integrated. That’s the difference. Cisco really doesn’t have a similar comparison, if you will. Architecturally they are very different. And that makes it very complex.”

One of the keys to Aruba’s success in the networking market is its automation and simplicity, said Erik Krucker, CTO at Comport Consulting, an HPE Platinum partner, No. 333 on the CRN SP500.

“We have some pretty large customers and they like the simplicity of Aruba in terms of deployments and upgrades,” he said. “They don’t want to spend their nights and weekends having to take downtime. Ease of use and deployment with the features available is a big differentiator. All of the software modules in Aruba are easy to implement and maintain.”

There is “zero” tolerance in today’s high pressure IT landscape for any network downtime, said Krucker. “Aruba has really strong upgrade paths with zero downtime, upgrade on the fly,” he said. “It’s one of the things that customers really love about Aruba.”

Krucker also praised the Aruba engineering team which has worked closely with Comport on some large scale network deployments. “They really roll up their sleeves, work with us and got it done,” he said. “Clients love that interaction and engagement. The Aruba engineering and management team is awesome! They are very nimble, agile and responsive to customers. They listen to the customers.”

Comport is seeing increased adoption of its ComportSecure Aruba managed services offerings, said Krucker. “One of the big pieces that customers are looking to offload to managed service providers like us is wireless networking,” he said. “Aruba really makes it easy to deploy, implement, maintain and troubleshoot than some of the other solutions on the market. They have really come on strong to provide that type of managed service through ComportSecure for our customers.”

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