HPE Aruba held the digital version of its signature Atmosphere event this week. In an enlightened move, the company decided to have comedian and talk show host James Corden perform master of ceremonies duties, starting the event with some much-needed comic relief amid the coronavirus pandemic and recent social unrest. Not surprisingly, the “Intelligent Edge” was a core theme of the event. To that end, Aruba announced a new, modern networking architecture branded Edge Services Platform (ESP). I had the opportunity to be pre-briefed before the event, and would like to share my insights into what I find compelling about the announcement.
Connect, protect, analyze, and act
Aruba views the four above actions as key to unlocking the potential of edge networking. Compute resources must be closer to data creation points in order to lower latency and provide more responsive application support and new service delivery. CEO Keerti Melkote explained his definition of the edge in a virtual session with myself and other industry analysts. He views the edge as the place where things happen—a messy proposition to manage. I couldn’t agree more, especially the latter point. With the whitewashing of edge, artificial intelligence (AI) and many solution providers claiming to provide the de facto networking solution. There is also a lot of discussion these days about network automation, which is designed to improve overall performance, simplify management and self-heal networks. Edge deployments have the potential to supercharge automation and accelerate the ability to act on networking insights. What I find compelling about Aruba’s vision is that it is a complete, end-to-end approach that delivers dynamic policy and security capabilities. Furthermore, it provides depth in switching, Wi-Fi and SD-WAN for both on-premise and cloud deployments.
Breaking down ESP
Aruba’s ESP platform can be broken down into four major buckets from my perspective: cloud services and data management, dynamic policy and security, connectivity diversity and ecosystem creation. From a cloud services and data management perspective, Aruba Central provides IT professionals a simple and intuitive way to manage the deployment, ongoing operations and network assurance for wireless, wired and SD-WAN topologies, from a single console. Additionally, it supports zero touch provisioning of networked devices and an intelligent approach to the consolidation of customer data for improved visibility, performance and issue remediation. Meanwhile, Aruba Dynamic Segmentation brings deep, dynamic policy and security capabilities, including the automatic, continuous enforcement of policies to ensure consistency. Another feature, ClearPass Insights, eases the discovery and profiling of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. A rich diversity of connectivity options supports all networking modalities. Additionally, it features integrated security for a purpose-built switching portfolio, enterprise-grade gateways and AI-enabled Wi-Fi 6 access points. Recent new features such as Aruba Air Slice and Air Pass also guarantee “last foot/ meter” Wi-Fi performance and better 4G LTE and 5G handoff.
Lastly, Aruba has assembled an impressive partner ecosystem, via its ArubaEdge, 360 Security Exchange, and Meridian Engage programs. Founded upon an open application program interface (API) approach, these partner programs have the potential to accelerate mobile and IoT device validation and time to market, ease integration of third party security applications with Aruba’s core offerings and further the delivery of location-based services (e.g. contact tracing for those who test positive for COVID-19).
Aruba has been very consistent in its approach to the edge. Its parent company, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), has taken note, integrating much of Aruba’s intellectual property into its broader portfolio of solutions (such as the IT consumption service HPE Greenlake). Aruba ESP represents a new networking architecture that is modern, hyperscale enabled and flexible enough to meet the needs of enterprises of all sizes. Will the ESP platform deliver a sixth sense for network operators? Time will tell, but I see dead manual network management techniques!