HPE Aruba And Its Edge To Cloud Vision

Last week, I attended the second digital version of HPE Aruba’s annual Atmosphere event. Aruba demonstrated what I thought was a great blend of use cases and enhancements to the company’s Edge Services Platform (ESP) launched at last year’s event. I also had the opportunity to spend time with executives in a highly interactive Q&A session. In this column I would like to share my take on the news items I found particularly compelling at the event.

The integration value of Silver Peak 

HPE announced its intention to acquire Silver Peak in July of last year and closed the transaction a few months later. The technology giant must have seen tremendous value in Silver Peak given the nearly $1B price tag it paid for the SD-WAN provider. I believe the acquisition is a smart move in that it combines Aruba’s leadership in software-defined wide-area networking at the branch (a term it has cleverly coined “SD-Branch”) with Silver Peak’s robust security and segmentation capabilities. It also consolidates two leaders in the SD-WAN space, which is a crowded market and filled with too many me-too offerings, in my opinion. 

What impresses me is that Aruba integrated Silver Peak into its Edge Services Platform (ESP) in a short six months. Aruba ESP comprises four major buckets – cloud services and data management, dynamic policy and security, connectivity diversity and ecosystem creation. Silver Peak extends ESP’s capabilities in three key areas: zero trust segmentation, unified branch security and an expanded partner ecosystem. Let us examine each.  

It seems like every networking infrastructure provider is talking about zero-trust these days, and for a good reason. Given the explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT) devices, a lack of historic standards for consistency and the headless nature of many devices, IoT poses one of the single most significant risks to network operators. Silver Peak’s zero trust segmentation aims to eliminate the IoT threat by directing devices and users to only communicate with other endpoints tied to its role and function. Unified branch security is the second enhancement that Silver Peak brings to the Aruba ESP platform. Unified branch security provides threat visibility, policy-driven enforcement and incident correlation. Silver Peak’s EdgeConnect is the conduit that delivers this functionality. From my perspective, it strengthens an already solid Aruba security offering with intrusion detection and prevention, threat logging and analysis and zone-based firewalling capabilities that are all visible in Aruba Central. Lastly, Silver Peak augments Aruba’s masterfully built partner ecosystem that it has cultivated over the years. The ecosystem spans several areas, ensuring the interoperability of third-party devices, applications and services with an open API philosophy. 

Aruba executive insights 

As mentioned earlier, I had the opportunity to spend virtual time with senior Aruba executives, including President Keerti Melkote, CTO Partha Narasimhan and David Hughes, founder of Silver Peak (who now serves as Head of WAN Aruba). Mr. Melkote spoke to explosion of digital services brought about by the pandemic, including not only entertainment (and yes, I did my own share of binging) but also telemedicine and eCommerce. The deployment of edge infrastructure dramatically improves latency and throughput to support many of these use cases. I believe Aruba’s ESP platform is well-positioned to capitalize on this. 

Mr. Narasimhan shared three customer journeys during one of the breakout sessions—one focused on the workplace, one on network operations and one on business outcomes anchored by location-based services (an area of strength for Aruba, as evidenced by the success of its Meridian platform). What struck me as most compelling was his discussion around Aruba Fabric Composer. Aruba claims that Fabric Composer can eliminate tens of thousands of CLI commands, simplifying and speeding up network deployment. This is crucial, because it would allow IT staff to focus more on value-adding tasks, like new application delivery and services. 

Finally, Mr. Hughes, in his new role post-acquisition, spoke on the rise of SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) and how it factors into the management of IoT devices. He made a compelling point; SASE cannot manage headless devices that expose most networks to a dramatically expanded threat surface. In my mind, this demonstrates the power of EdgeConnect’s ability to secure devices through zero-trust segmentation.  

Wrapping up

There is no doubt that the integration of Silver Peak into the Aruba ESP platform is a winner. It extends an already impressive set of capabilities in Aruba Central and ClearPass, and I believe overall, it positions Aruba as a top contender for SD-WAN/ SASE deployments. Aruba also continues to deliver significant capabilities with its Intelligent Edge solution focus. The company is shooting for the clouds, and I believe it’s hitting its mark with its comprehensive portfolio and strong edge-to-cloud vision.