I recently attended HPE Aruba’s annual Atmosphere (ATM) event (in person, no less!) in Las Vegas. It was refreshing to be back physically post-pandemic. A lot has changed for the networking infrastructure provider. Former founders and CEO Keertie Melkoke and CTO Partha Narasimhan left the company mid-last year, and new leadership is in place at many levels. Attendance also seemed somewhat smaller than in years past, but that is no surprise, given that it will take time for many to feel comfortable attending live events. However, ATM provided ample opportunity for Aruba to communicate enhancements to its portfolio and network as a service (NaaS) offering. Consequently, I would like to share my insights about what I found most compelling.
After the departure of Aruba’s C-level leadership, the company has big shoes to fill. Phil Mottram is now at the helm as President of Aruba and HPE’s Intelligent Edge portfolio. Mr. Mottram brings a wealth of service provider experience to his role, having served in sales and management capacities with several operators, including AT&T, Sprint, BT, and Vodafone.. His corporate DNA could help HPE’s networking unit balance what has traditionally been a very enterprise-centric business within Aruba. HPE has a mature telco business, but as operators embrace disaggregation, especially in the radio access network, having multiple routes to market with communication service providers, system integrators, and telco value-added resellers is compelling. I spent considerable time with Mr. Mottram at ATM and found him a very pragmatic, engaging executive who should bring Aruba a fresh perspective.
David Hughes now serves as Chief Product and Technology Officer for Aruba. Mr. Hughes served as both CTO and, most recently, as CEO of Silver Peak Systems. It is no secret that HPE acquired Silver Peak for nearly $1B and closed the acquisition in the fall of 2020. After the announcement, I also shared my insights into what I find accretive in Silver Peak’s platform merger with Aruba. If interested, you can read that article here. Silver Peak is one of the top SD-WAN offerings in a very crowded market. Mr. Hughes’ addition to the Aruba executive leadership team should fortify future product and service roadmaps.
Sylvia Hooks now leads Aruba’s overall marketing efforts replacing Chris Kozup, who left for Zscaler in the fall of 2020. Ms. Hooks is no stranger to Aruba, having served in junior roles over two stints before her executive appointment. I had the opportunity to engage with her in a pre-briefing before the event and several other meetings at ATM. Aruba’s mantra since its inception is “Customer First, Customer Last,” and from my perspective, Ms. Hooks is executing that vision. I was able to speak to a handful of Aruba customers at ATM, including Cincinnati Bell (now Altafiber) and Nobu Hotels, and what I found with both is an intense loyalty to Aruba. Many networking environments are multi-vendor in nature to ensure continuity of supply and price competitiveness. Thus, my conversations point to Aruba’s success in forging customer loyalty.
The value of prescriptive NaaS offerings
Just before ATM, Aruba announced eight purpose-built NaaS offerings within the GreenLake for Aruba portfolio. It includes Indoor Wireless, Outdoor Wireless, Remote Wireless, Wired Access, Wired Aggregation, Wired Core, SD-Branch, and Aruba Experience Insight – all delivered as a Service. I like this portfolio because it is prescriptive and removes the nebulous nature of NaaS, which is often confusing for both partners and customers. HPE continues to lead the pack in IT consumption services from my perspective. However, it will need to continue to “up its game” as Cisco Plus, and Dell APEX are on HPE’s heels.
To point to Aruba’s success in NaaS, Home Depot participated in one of the ATM keynotes. While on stage, the Home Depot executive discussed how Aruba and its NaaS platform are enabling the home improvement giant to free up time to solve business problems versus being mired in troubleshooting tedium. From my perspective, another NaaS superpower is the ability to treat networking infrastructure as an operational expense. Home Depot spoke to that benefit in flattening costs, and in my mind, not having to depreciate networking equipment in times of inflation delivers added value for enterprises. An additional fun fact that Home Depot shared was that mulch blocks Wi-Fi propagation – so take note, landscape professionals!
It was invigorating to attend ATM in person and spend time with Aruba executives, customers, and my fellow analyst colleagues. Although I missed seeing familiar faces, I enjoyed meeting some new executives and attending the keynotes and break-out sessions. I continue to be impressed with HPE’s leadership in NaaS and IT consumption services, and ATM was an effective showcase for Aruba’s success to date.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.