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M&A, Organic Growth Position Aruba Networks as Fearsome Rival to Networking Incumbents

Eight years after Aruba's successful "reverse integration" into HPE, the networking vendor is poised to take on Cisco.

James Anderson

April 26, 2023

15 Slides

ARUBA ATMOSPHERE — Aruba Networks is expanding its technology portfolio to provide a safe landing space for businesses leaving rival vendors “en masse,” Aruba executive vice president and general manager Phil Mottram said.

Aruba’s annual conference has been a showcase for how the HPE-owned networking vendor has evolved from its predominantly wireless identity. The company is growing both organically and inorganically to expand into data center, private 5G and cybersecurity.

For example, HPE has recently announced acquisitions of private mobile core network provider Athonet and cybersecurity provider Axis Security. Buying Athonet establishes a private 5G network play that executives say will complement Aruba’s Wi-Fi practice. And Axis’s next-gen cybersecurity features can integrate with Aruba’s Silver Peak SD-WAN business to create a full secure service edge (SASE) offering. At the same time, Aruba has built out service packs for channel partners to deliver network as a service to customers.

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HPE’s Antonio Neri

Aruba Networks represented HPE’s first acquisition under the leadership of president and CEO Antonio Neri in 2015. Since then, HPE has gone on to acquire 35 companies over seven years. Neri said HPE needs to balance “organic innovation” with “targeted acquisitions” that complement those organic innovations.

“You need to complement your organic investment through targeted acquisitions, maintaining a very disciplined return on invested capital structure,” Neri said on the keynote stage at Atmosphere.

Mottram noted that the inorganic growth stems in part from an opportunity Aruba sees to take disgruntled customers from other vendors.

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Aruba’s Phil Mottram

“We do hear from customers that they’re frustrated with some of our competitors and they want to move en masse away from our competitors and over to Aruba. And when they do that, they want us to have a broader product portfolio,” he said.

Widening the Portfolio

Vice president of portfolio solutions marketing Larry Lunetta said Aruba was functioning primarily as a wireless vendor when HPE acquired it. But he said the company has seen the need to expand that identity as it seeks to overtake incumbents. He and other Aruba executives refrained from uttering the name “Cisco” in interviews with Channel Futures, but they made the point they are working to build a fearsome competitor.

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Aruba’s Larry Lunetta

“My favorite saying goes back a ways that nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. There’s a network equivalent, but all those things come to an end,” Lunetta told Channel Futures. “And we think that’s coming to an end for networking. Part of the rationale for these acquisitions is, if you’re not going to take the safe choice, your alternative needs to be pretty close to that. Not necessarily in terms of total revenue, but in breadth of portfolio, financial resources, global reach and brand innovation. If you’re going to leave the safe choice, I don’t think there’s anybody that matches us.”

Aruba Networks Partner Perspective

Philip Allen runs Lincoln, Nebraska-based DataVizion. The MSP partners exclusively with Aruba for wired and wireless solutions. And he said Aruba’s portfolio growth proportionately helps DataVizion serve its customers.

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DataVizion’s Philip Allen

“Each time Aruba makes one of these acquisitions that expands their portfolio, it actually helps us quite a bit, because now I can go provide the service. For example, if [customers] say, ‘We need a full edge SD-WAN solution,’ I can say, ‘I’ve got you covered.’ So for us, it’s mapped perfectly for our expansion to be able to provide comprehensive solutions for our clients,” Allen told Channel Futures.

Allen, Mottram, Neri and other key Aruba stakeholders are on the scene in Las Vegas for Aruba Atmosphere. Channel Futures covered the Tuesday keynote, which includes perspectives from customers and some of the companies HPE is acquiring. Read about Atmosphere, Aruba’s M&A strategy, customer adoption of network-as a service in the 15 slides above.

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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