HPE Aruba Atmosphere 2022 Recap

We attended Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s  Las Vegas-based Atmosphere conference.  It was very well attended, and this was Aruba’s first in-person user conference in over two years as we come out of the pandemic.  Aruba made several important announcements at the event, including a formal Network as a Service (NaaS) offering, a series of broad cloud-services announcements, a formal unveiling of the Aruba/Pensando partnership, and the availability of industry first location-based access points. 

The biggest splash came with Aruba’s NaaS announcement.  While the company has been offering NaaS for two years, most of the deals were custom deals. In one of the smaller group meetings, the company shared a few of the logo wins, which included Texas A&M, Brookfield Properties, and Trevecca.  What Aruba has done is standardized its offerings to a number of “service packs” that resellers can approach customers with.  The company basically took its two years of experience and and packaged up what it felt were the best practices and the most common packages, which include wireless, switching and more.  On a related topic, 650 Group announced that it is publishing a NaaS report, which of course includes historical and forecast data for this up and coming market.  Additionally, in the small group breakout meeting, some resellers were asking questions about what happens at the end of a three or five year subscription and whether the offering can be split up or must it be sold as one.  We feel that Aruba will be working closely with their partners over the next year or so to support them as NaaS gains stickiness, but that there is some genuine interest as markets move away from pure CAPEX models towards subscription and as-a-Service. 

The company also announced significant enhancements to its Aruba Central Cloud-Managed Services offerings, with Aruba Central NetConductor. NetConductor allows for cloud-based central management of wired, wireless and WAN systems as well as to SASE systems. It also integrates the capabilities of two other functions well known to Aruba customers, Network Access Control (NAC) and Dynamic Segmentation.  Aruba has based NetConductor on some widely used protocols like EVPN, VXLAN and BGP which would allow for integration with both Aruba gear and non-Aruba gear.

During the first day’s keynote sessions, HPE CEO, Antonio Neri, spent quite a bit of time on stage. Former Cisco CEO John Chambers joined him on stage so that they could discuss the HPE  and Pensando’s partnership.  It was interesting to see Chambers literally hugging Neri, especially considering that Chambers ran Aruba’s arch-nemesis, Cisco Systems, for two decades.  It made the keynote very interesting.  We covered the Aruba-Pensando announcement last fall and you can find more about it here. Another thing that is interesting is that Neri’s presence was felt beyond the Chambers discussion, as Aruba Central is now part of HPE GreenLake. HPE claims that this gives IT admins a single operating model for network, compute and storage services across edges, data centers, and public clouds.  

Aruba announced that its newer access points have all been shipping with a location-based feature that leverages GPS.  This is a differentiator for Aruba because it said it is not charging extra hardware or subscriptions charges to use GPS.  We’ve been thinking about what this function can do for Aruba customers. Relative location capabilities have been around on WLAN Access Points and on Bluetooth beacons for several years now and many vendors offer it. However, the way we see it is that having a GPS capability makes location capabilities far easier to use because what Aruba’s location capabilities do is position all the APs on an absolute basis, and thereafter, a relative service like wayfinding, dwell time analytics and the like can be anchored to specific places on a floor plan without having to get the ruler out, so to speak.  Also, maintaining control over inventory can be simplified because these Aruba APs know where they are, like, what ceiling tile they can be found in, or what building they were moved to.

In summary, at the Atmosphere show, Network as a Service has become a major talking point in the industry, Aruba’s cloud service now shares the stage with other top players in the industry, and Aruba announced a really cool function on its access points that simplifies location services.