10 Things Aruba Networks Leader Kerrti Melkote Said About Artificial Intelligence, Future Technology Investments And APIs

Melkote's Big Bets

Aruba Networks leader and founder Keerti Melkote spoke in front of thousands of partners, customers and developers during the company's Atmosphere conference on Tuesday about the networking vendor's investments and vision.

Giving the company's keynote presentation for the first time since the recent departure of former leader Dominic Orr, Aruba's founder and general manager Melkote reassured the audience that Aruba's culture and go-to-market strategy was staying intact.

In a 60-minute address at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, Melkote laid out Aruba's technology vision and where channel partners should be placing their bets. Here are 10 of the key takeaways from his keynote.

Software Building Blocks Around Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Melkote said Aruba is investing to integrate more artificial intelligence and machine learning into its key product lines.

"There's lot of very interesting work around the industry in this area of AI and machine learning. It's hard to ignore ... This is one of the areas that we're going to take our software building blocks – things like [Aruba] Airwave, ClearPass and other platforms that we're building – and start to bring [in] AI and machine learning," said Melkote.

Edge Intelligence Is The Future

Although Aruba is currently innovating around mobility and the cloud, Melkote said the company will be investing "a ton of time and energy" in intelligence at the network edge.

"The mobile cloud is the era we're living in -- a lot of innovations we're building is in that world, but we're keeping an eye on this edge intelligence and how we will bring the new stack that includes networking, compute and software together to go at the edge itself," he said.

Aruba Culture, Partner Strategy Remaining The Same

With the recent departure of its longtime leader Dominic Orr, Melkote reassured the partners and customers that's Aruba's culture and values are still well intact.

"Our go-to-market commitment with our partners will absolutely continue. You can be assured that the partner go-to-market model that we created will continue moving forward," Melkote said. "We live in a multi-vendor ecosystem and we want to support and built on top of that and that commitment will continue. The hallmark of the culture that we've built over the past 15 years, which is: 'Customer first, customer last' will continue. Everything we do starts with the customers and ends with the customer … It's very dear and personal to us. It's in the DNA."

Partners Speeding Up Aruba Innovation Through APIs

Aruba has opened up all APIs on its Mobile First Platform with hundreds of partners currently developing on the platform to build custom solutions, according to Melkote.

"We have externalized pretty much all of the components via APIs – the networking pieces, the security pieces, the manageability pieces, location services, and analytics – all of these are available via APIs to be consumed by our partners … I'm happy to say there's hundreds of partners who have been developing on top of this with thousands of developers and it's a growing ecosystem," said Melkote. "Which means the innovation that we are bringing to the market to the customers is happening not only at the speed of what our developers can do internally, but more of what our entire ecosystem can do … This is how our customers and partners are creating that edge by leveraging the APIs and innovating on top of it."

Automating RF Management

Melkote said Aruba's vision is to automate radio frequency (RF) management that can make real-time networking decisions by leveraging machine learning.

"This, to me, is the next frontier of where RF management is going to go. The ultimate vision for us is to figure out if we can make this entire process not just about learning, but automation and make it autonomous. So that whatever we learn in the cloud via machine learning, we can bring it back into the network and automate the control aspect as well. The vision we talked about is, if you can put a self-driving car on the road, we can certainly figure out how to self-drive an RF network in a much more smarter, intelligent way. That's a journey we are on."

Partner Ready For Networking Program Is The Channel's Future

In September at HPE's 2016 Global Partner Conference in Boston, HPE-Aruba launched its first-ever joint partner program – combining the best elements of the Aruba Partner Edge and HPE Partner Ready programs. Melkote told partners this program will be the future for Aruba partners with no changes expected in the foreseeable future.

"We heard from all of you in the partner community that you'd like to see a single channel program and we delivered on that ... This is going to be the program going forward for our partners," he said.

SD-WAN Not A Real Market

Melkote said he doesn't see software-defined WAN "as a market" but more of "a feature." He said Aruba is investing in SD-WAN through its cloud-based networking management platform Aruba Central.

"Software-defined WAN is a feature I don’t see it as a market. The market that I see developing is for a managed branch where the Wi-Fi piece, the wired connectivity piece and the WAN piece all comes together in a managed service way. And to do this managed service, we're investing heavily in Aruba Central to be that [solution] that allows you to deploy all the infrastructure that you need inside branch offices and to be able to easily manage it."

The Channel Needs To Expand Software Skillset

Melkote said innovation for partners means to expand their skillset not simply around Wi-Fi or networking, but specifically in software.

"In fact, the more software savvy you become, the more valuable your skillset will become over time. Spend a lot of time learning the software platforms and how you can use the APIs in those platforms to operate the infrastructure underneath," he said.

Niara Brings 'Deep' Machine Learning Capabilities Into Network Infrastructure

With HPE-Aruba acquiring security analytics and network forensics specialist Niara, Melkote said Aruba gained a team of experts and technology around security, networking and machine learning.

" They put together an architecture that is able to monitor East-West traffic and not just log streams like Splunk does, but go beyond log streams and look at packet streams and uncover threats that are already inside your networks … We need to figure out how to deploy big data machine learning techniques and packet streams to be able to find these threats and this is going to become part of the ClearPass enforcement [solution] to give you a much more automated way to surface the threats and control it from spreading inside. It's another example of where we can bring deep machine learning capabilities to the network infrastructure itself."

Biggest Innovation Of The Year: Aruba OS 8

Melkote said the "largest innovation over the last year" at his company has been the revamp of its flagship operating system: ArubaOS 8.

"This is the operating environment that fundamentally runs most of the wireless networks that are built out there and the Aruba OS version 8, we have now virtualized our OS to run on traditional data center hardware. At the same time, it's not just simply virtualizing it and running it on an x86 box, we have created a completely new way to scale using cloud principals to create a horizontal model by decomposing the architecture into micro-services and delivering that in a highly scalable manner," said Melkote.