The Big Picture: 5 Viewpoints On HP's Acquisition Of Aruba Networks

Looking At It From All Angles

The official unveiling on Monday that Hewlett-Packard is seeking to acquire Aruba Networks for $3 billion made the IT world sit up and take notice. Many vendors and partners in various channels had much to say about the acquisition and how they believed it will affect the landscape -- from Cisco Systems partners to Aerohive Networks executives.

As more information flew in about the acquisition this week, which is expected to be finalized in the summer, it was hard for anyone to keep their opinions to themselves in a move that could be a game-changer down the line.

CRN took a look at some of the more important viewpoints regarding the acquisition.

HP Partners: HP Vs. Cisco

HP partners said the acquisition is going to put pressure on the networking giant Cisco due to Aruba's wireless product line combined with the power of HP.

"This deal to me shows the vulnerability of Cisco and the fiefdom Cisco had in networking," said Bob Venero, CEO of Future Tech, a Holbrook, N.Y.-based HP and Aruba partner. "HP is going after Cisco for a bigger piece of that market."

In the most recent quarter, HP showed an 11 percent drop in networking sales, compared to a strong quarter from Cisco, which included 11 percent sales growth in its switching business.

HP partners hope the acquisition will cut into Cisco's wireless market share.

Cisco Partners: No Big Deal

Cisco partners are brushing off the acquisition, saying many other vendors like itself and Dell have done similar acquisitions, such as Cisco buying Meraki and Dell acquiring SonicWall.

"Cisco's acquisition of Meraki was quite a bit more prescient. They were ahead of the curve with a cloud-based wireless controller, and I think that HP is kind of just playing a 'me too' role in that capacity," said Tom Clancy, a founding partner at the New York-based company Valiant, a Cisco partner.

Other Cisco partners said HP has a bad history of acquiring companies then letting them fall by the wayside.

Aruba Partners: Cautiously Optimistic

Despite record revenue coming in at $212.9 million for its second-quarter earnings unveiled last week, Aruba partners are hesitant to celebrate following the news of the acquisition.

Partners were initially concerned that the acquisition could hurt their Aruba business, as well as put tension on already established relationships with vendors like Juniper Networks and Brocade Communications.

As more information about the acquisition came to light, partners were a bit more comfortable about the deal, but are still not completely onboard. Partners were happy Aruba executives would still be leading the wireless network, as well as keeping their philosophy of open system networking.

"It appears that they're going to let [CEO] Dominic [Orr] and [CTO] Keerti [Melkote] lead the networking group and keep them very separate, autonomous, and this could be a good kind of change for HP -- a good direction to go down," said Bill Tracy, director of solution architecture at Portland, Ore.-based solution provider Structured Communication Systems, an Aruba and Juniper partner. "[I'm] cautiously optimistic."

Aerohive: Dell Might Be Hurt

Abby Strong, Aerohive's director of product marketing, said in a blog post on Monday that some Aruba relationships could be in jeopardy following the acquisition.

"I suspect the relationship with Dell will be the most volatile," she wrote. "Dell not only fights for switch business with HP, but they've also spent a significant amount of money customizing the Aruba OEM software to fit into their portfolio."

Strong is somewhat optimistic that the acquisition could benefit Aruba partners in the long run.

"Aruba channel partners may not be happy having to compete against the huge HP channel in products and services, as well as meeting the more stringent HP partnership requirements," she said. "Past acquisitions like this have introduced [Aerohive] to some of our best channel partners."

Aruba: Everything Is Going To Be Fine

Aruba is telling its channel community that there is nothing to be afraid of, and the acquisition will actually help grow their business because partners will be able to utilize a much larger and broader HP portfolio.

"Aruba partners are going to have far greater resources available to them, a broader solution portfolio that's available to them, better ability to drive business and demand," said Greg Murphy, vice president of business operations. "Frankly, we think that combining with HP, that we and our partners will get higher-level access to larger enterprises than we're currently able to do by ourselves, and that is one of the main strategic drivers for this."

Murphy said both Aruba and HP share the same vision of open system networking, and partners have the opportunity to capitalize on the trend of "mobility-first" by working together with HP.