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Aruba Partners Get Data Center Incentives, Fast-Tracked Axis Security Sales Availability

An MSP leader explained how Aruba's network-as-a-service push is helping fuel his company's core business.

James Anderson

April 27, 2023

9 Min Read
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Aruba Networks is moving quickly to incentivize and equip Aruba partners to sell its expanding technology portfolio.

The HPE-owned networking provider spent much of its Aruba Atmosphere conference this week sharing how its technology set is growing through both organic and inorganic means. In addition to building service pack SKUs for its network-as-a-service (NaaS) portfolio and bringing its CX 10000 switch deeper into the data center, the company recently purchased security service edge (SSE) provider Axis Security to ultimately deliver SSE and SASE solutions.

And the expanded portfolio means an expanded total addressable market for Aruba partners, executives told Channel Futures. With those opportunities in mind, Aruba has fast-tracked the availability the Axis Security portfolio for partners to sell. It has also unveiled a data center competency program that will give certified partners rebates and special visibility among the Aruba field sales team.

Axis Security

HPE announced early in March the acquisition of Israel-based cybersecurity provider Axis. The purchasee provides zero trust network access (ZTNA), secure web gateway (SWG) and cloud access security broker (CASB) – all coveted components of an SSE framework. Moreover, that SSE platform can integrate with the SD-WAN capabilities Aruba acquired through Silver Peak to create SASE, which merges both the advanced cybersecurity and advanced networking features onto the same platform. Partners can sell the combined SASE offering or deliver standalone SSE/ZTNA offering.

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Aruba’s Jim Harold

In either case, Aruba channel leaders say they are moving quickly on making Axis available to partners. Axis Security offerings will be available via the Silver Peak EdgeConnect system and sales programs. All distributors that were distributing Silver Peak EdgeConnect before can distribute Axis Security now.

“We took every obstacle off the table,” said Jim Harold, Aruba’s vice president of North American channels. “You could start selling this yesterday.”

Here’s our most recent list of important channel-program changes you should know.

Harold said partners had brought up Axis to him in the past as a strong option for customers. And indeed, it appears that many Aruba partners have sold Axis in the past.

“Once the acquisition went through, we compared list of partners and saw very strong overlap,” Harold told Channel Futures.

Data Center

Aruba has also touted its expansion into the data center through its CX 10000 switch and its joint venture with AMD Pensando. Aruba partners can also take advantage of a new data center competency. In order to earn the competency, two sales people at a partner need to earn a DCN sales certification, and two technical members need to earn a DCN technical certification. The competency gives a partners with the competency a 10% backend rebate on all data center sales. Moreover, Aruba’s field sales team will turn to those partners with competencies with leads.

Harold said he now has a list of partners that he can heartily recommend to Aruba sales people when they come to him asking for names.

“It is meaningful, because we’re still 95% sales through partners. If our field sales person comes across a data center opportunity, they’re going to want to work with a partner that they know can sell and support,” he said.

Harold added that the competency resembles the competency Aruba rolled out for …

… its ClearPass policy manager solution eight years ago.

“It helped us a lot with ClearPass because partners could go get trained technically and become identified as an expert within that area,” Harold told Channel Futures. “We actually went with to our partner council and said, ‘Would this make a big difference if we came up with a competency program?’ And unanimously they said yes.”

Donna Grothjan, vice president of worldwide channels at HPE Aruba Networking, said the competency makes sense as Aruba seeks to drive channel adoption of “a leading technology that’s pretty early in the life cycle.”

“We want partners to come on board quickly with us. For those that come on quickly, get educated and skilled, we reward them, and then they become the set of go-to partners,” Grothjan told Channel Futures. “We’re actively promoting them to our sales teams. We’re actively promoting them out into the market.”

HPE Data Center Alignment

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Aruba’s Donna Grothjan

Grothjan also spearheaded “Better-Together” SKUs, which seek to bring Aruba partners selling data center into joint opportunities with the HPE IT side. For example, a partner selling HPE storage could add Aruba’s top-of-rack switch onto the same sale, as Aruba has placed its SKUs into the HPE IT book of SKUs.

“If a partner is doing a storage configuration, they can just add our product. Pricing is already set, so on and so forth. So it’s really kind of the easy button. And that’s a big opportunity for us because a lot of those partners live in the data center on the storage and server side,” she said.

Grothjan said the Better-Together SKUs represent an opportunity to convert existing HPE partners into using the Aruba portfolio.

“The opportunity is to really leverage the broader HPE organization into the data center,” she said.

NaaS

Aruba is working to bring to market its ninth service pack for network as a service. Aruba originally developed customized offerings for about 30 large customers and managed the networks itself. But in the last year and a half the vendor has been bringing to market standardized offerings that executives say Aruba partners will play a leading role in delivering.

Harold said NaaS has truly taken off in terms of customer demand. He said that when he brought up NaaS to partners two years ago, most of them responded that their customers weren’t asking for an opex model.

However, increasing staffing challenges and growing economic constraints have changed that equation for many customers.

“Now I’m getting calls from partners that say, ‘Hey, Jim, I had two customers ask me if I can quote this as a service to them, and that never happened before.’ The market’s heating up. I think every partner is feeling it. Before it was once in a blue moon. Now it’s pretty consistent. So we’re taking full advantage of it,” Harold said.

Megan Amdahl, Insight Enterprises‘ senior vice president of partner alliances and North America transformation, called NaaS a “paradigm shift.”

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Insight’s Megan Amdahl

“Networks are changing and so are the consumption models. Aruba’s acquisitions and expanding capabilities fit well with our clients’ needs as they upgrade data centers, grow at the edge, and converge network and security via technologies like private 5G, SD-WAN and SASE. As we help them figure out how it all meshes, enterprises need speed to outcomes and flexibility for scale. Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) may be the answer for many. Addressing business drivers by focusing on measurable and trackable KPIs, moving from capex to opex and right sizing the infrastructure are just some of the benefits,” Amdahl said.

Aruba’s NaaS expansion fits perfectly with what Nebraska-based MSP DataVizion is doing in its business. DataVizion CEO Philip Allen said the firm started as a traditional break-fix MSP. Then firm started partnering exclusively with Aruba for wired and wireless solutions, and that resulted in DataVizion started work on some …

… very large project with large clients. And a focus on moving product started taking DataVizion away from its core identity, Allen said.

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DataVizion’s Philip Allen

“We started looking less like a managed service provider or a professional services provider and more like a VAR. Because that was where a huge part of our top-line revenue was coming from. The difference was, that has much lower margin than our service offerings do and doesn’t really differentiate us in the marketplace,” Allen told Channel Futures. “Anybody can resell Aruba or Cisco or Juniper or anything else. And so over the last few years, we’ve refocused on becoming a service provider again. So what’s beautiful for us is, the focus and the emphasis on network as a service aligns perfectly with my strategy for being focused more on providing those kinds of services.”

Allen said that while some customers are used to leasing hardware for a 36- or 60-month period, the Aruba NaaS offering sets itself apart with the managed services that wrap around the hardware and software. And of course Aruba’s agile NaaS framework allows customers to highly customize the way they consume NaaS. For example, some choose to buy the hardware outright while getting the recurring software and services.

And Allen said sees Aruba leaning on the channel for the managed services component.

“If Aruba said, ‘We’re going to support that customer, and maybe you’ll get to do some add-on stuff,’ that would be radically different. That’s not the message,” Allen said.

And Larry Lunetta, Aruba’s vice president of portfolio solutions marketing agreed that Aruba partners, particularly MSPs, will be the primary vehicle for these services.

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Aruba’s Larry Lunetta

“We’ve got 50 NaaS customers that we manage now. So we’ve learned a lot, but we’re not going to grow our business by managing every network on Earth,” Lunetta told Channel Futures. “The channel partners are our growth engine. They like the fact that we’re giving them tools to really fit into what the customer needs, as opposed to the other way around.”

Service Packs

Allen said he was excited to learn about Aruba’s ninth and latest service pack, this one geared toward ClearPass. Allen said DataVizion has done a lot of messaging to customers about what ClearPass brings to the table with policy management.

“It almost saddens me when when one of our major clients just does a network refresh and doesn’t consider network access control. To me, it doesn’t make any sense to just have this environment where you don’t know what’s on there. You don’t have any policies to control or manage what’s on there. Having ClearPass is going to be huge for us in the network as a service space.”

When asked if any service packs are seeing a particularly strong uptick, Grothjan noted that they are following the same mix of business Aruba had before.

“It’s really about driving ease of doing business for the partners to be able to sell network as a service, as opposed to promoting one pack over another,” she said.

It was an action-packed week for Aruba and its channel. The vendors unveiled enhancements to its Aruba Central network management solution and an agile NaaS framework on Tuesday. Then on the same day the vendor announced the retirement of Grothjan, who has served for seven years at the helm of Aruba’s channel. 

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email James Anderson or connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

 

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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