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The Doyle Report: Aruba Unveils Mobile First Platform, AI-Enabled Support Tool and Ideas for Transforming Business Processes at Partner Summit

Here are insights from the 2018 Aruba Atmosphere and Partner Summit.

ARUBA ATMOSPHERE — New technology. New partnerships. New ideas for transforming business.

That’s what you hope to get from traveling to a partner conference. This week’s Aruba’s Atmosphere/Partner Summit event, which is underway at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas, delivered on all fronts. In all, there are more than 3,100 attendees at Atmosphere, representing customers, developers, channel partners, analysts and more.

Aruba President and Founder Keerti Melkote kicked off the event by introducing the company’s Mobile First Architecture and NetInsight, its new AI-powered analytics tool for optimizing network performance. Aruba bills the former as “a next-generation networking architecture for the software-defined enterprise, designed to be mobile-first and deliver a network that is open, secure and autonomous.” The architecture is designed to provide nonstop networking, IoT readiness, API-centric customizability and analytical insights, according to Aruba.

NetInsight, meanwhile, makes its debut after six months of field testing. It’s an AI-powered tool that will be sold as a subscription ($30 per network device) by partners. It provides customers with insights on their own networks and ideas for optimizing them based on information curated from other customers with similar network setups. The technology was the brainchild of Rasa Networks, which Aruba acquired a year ago.

Keerti Melkote

Melkote told attendees that Aruba was hard at work building tools that will help networking professionals stay in front of performance issues, better understand how and when problems arise, and provide prescriptive steps for optimizing network setups.

Afterward, he made the case as to why Aruba, which is a mere fraction of the size of rival Cisco, is a compelling network provider. Aruba, he insisted, is building the network of the future, which is optimized for the cloud era. To that end, he implored network professionals to reimagine their jobs, which will evolve in the near future. Instead of focusing on command-line interfaces (CLIs), he suggested networking professionals think in terms of working with application programming interfaces.

“The Future,” Melkote says, “will not be about protocols and vendor lock-in but APIs and open environments, instead.”

To help make its case, Melkote invited several customers to the stage to discuss new use cases they are creating with Aruba technology. Sandeep Davé, chief digital and technology officer at CBRE, was one of them. With more than 5 million sq. ft. of office space under its management, CBRE is one of the world’s largest real-estate companies. As part of its service to customers, it is working on innovations such as CBRE 360, an app that leverages Aruba APIs to help tenants deliver better workplace experiences. Unveiled in January, it helps customers find anything within their workspaces, better manage guests and make it easier to get broken things fixed.

In addition to CBRE, Aruba has established “Smart Digital Partnerships” with a number of companies from the worlds of manufacturing, lighting and other industries. Companies on board with Aruba include Deloitte, Zoom, Lunera and more. These relationships will have a transformative impact on the growth of the IoT, Aruba believes.

Then there’s Bob Corbin, senior director of infrastructure at The Ohio State University. At Atmosphere, Corbin described how his university was building one of the world’s most advanced and robust wireless networks on its Columbus, Ohio, campus with Aruba technology. Today, the school network boasts 14,000 different access points, which is expected to double within the next few years.

OSU has found the Wi-Fi networking gear from Aruba to be so reliable that it no longer includes wires for telecommunications and networking services inside new buildings.

While making the case for its technology and alliances, Melkote also shared some insights on the company’s overall business, which has grown since being acquired by HPE three years ago. Today, Aruba sales top $2.5 billion. And wireless sales are now as large as traditional wired sales. By bringing these disparate technologies together, Aruba hopes to power the next generation of self-driving delivery vehicles, drones, robots and more. Networking “brains,” Melkote says, will be local and in the cloud, and they will together.

As for partners, there are 900 of them here in Las Vegas this week. Many, including Tim Kirk, an account manager with CNI Sales of Worcester, Pennsylvania, say life within the Aruba partner ecosystem is good these days.

Founded in 1994, CNI employs 15 people. A reseller, managed services provider and technology consultant, CNI provides networking, security and infrastructure services to customers in the greater Mid-Atlantic region. It is especially strong in education.

When it comes to Aruba, CNI has been a partner for more than a decade. Today, the vendor represents nearly 20 percent of CNI’s revenue, and is among its top five partners. Of late, sales, including hardware, have been strong, says Kirk.

“Customers are going mobile and that keeps us very busy,” says Kirk.

As a partner, Kirk says Aruba has been responsive to its needs. Despite being a multibillion-dollar company, “Aruba still feels like a nimble, small business in many ways.” The company’s arm’s-length independence from its corporate parent is one reason why. But that’s not to say that everything has perfect since HPE acquired Aruba.

“When HP announced it was going to buy Aruba, we had some concerns. But Aruba has maintained its spirit and agility, save for one area: support,” says Kirk.

Over lunch here in Las Vegas, Aruba’s Janice Le, vice president of global marketing, nodded in agreement when Kirk spoke.

“After the acquisition, we kept our culture and our DNA,” says Le. “But several processes and functions were blended with the structures and platforms of the greater HPE. The result was that a few things suffered.”

After hearing from its channel, Aruba and HPE have agreed to decouple several things that are not working optimally. This includes not only partner support, but also marketing, social media and demand-generation.

That brought a smile to Kirk’s face. So did the NetInsight tool, which he believes will help customers and partners alike.

“NetInsight has the potential to free us up to provide higher value things to our customers, while giving them greater insights into their networks,” he says.

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