Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Aruba Networking continues to make its mark in the world of networking. Aruba, founded in 2001, recognized the early potential of Wi-Fi while others were keenly focused on traditional wired connectivity solutions. That vision allowed it to chart a course to become one of the preeminent suppliers of IT infrastructure, including the Wi-Fi-powered Meridian location-based services portfolio in its early days and later the launch of an AI-infused Edge Services Platform (ESP) —a topic I covered in a 2020 research paper.
HPE recognized Aruba’s potential to strengthen its product and solution portfolio, acquiring it in 2015. A lot has changed over the past eight years, including the departure of Aruba’s founder and former CEO Keerti Melkote, several HPE acquisitions (most notably SD-WAN provider Silver Peak) and the appointment of new senior executives Phil Mottram and David Hughes in 2021.
To learn more about what’s happening with the HPE Aruba Networking division today, I recently spoke with Mottram and Hughes on several topics including the company’s longer-term strategy, how the most recent acquisitions of Athonet and Axis Security could play into future solution offerings, the continued convergence of networking and security and more. It was a great conversation that I am eager to share, so let’s dive in.
New leadership, new vision
Mottram was appointed executive vice president and general manager of the HPE Aruba Networking division nearly two years ago, with Hughes’ appointment as chief product and technology officer coming at the same time. Both executives have deep industry experience: Mottram served in HPE’s telecom business unit as well as at Zayo, Vodafone and Telstra, while Hughes was the founder of Silver Peak, having held earlier positions with Cisco and Nortel. Together, they make a dynamic duo that brings a wealth of leadership and an understanding of customer needs across the enterprise and service provider domains.
During our conversation, Mottram pointed to HPE Aruba Networking’s key focus areas. The company is continuing to build on its leadership in IT consumption services with purpose-built network-as-a-service (NaaS) offerings within the GreenLake portfolio; SD-WAN differentiation, aided by its Silver Peak and Axis Security acquisitions; new private 5G services through the Athonet unit; and datacenter networking sales growth thanks to HPE’s strong presence in server and compute infrastructure. To achieve the last of these, the company has built what I consider to be a highly differentiated, world-class distributed switch—the CX10000, which features the AMD Pensando programable data processing unit (DPU) platform. Thus far, the CX10000 has met with great success, as evidenced by its sales momentum and the overwhelmingly positive customer feedback that I have heard firsthand.
Hughes spoke about the company’s recent acquisition of Israel-based Axis Security and how its integration into Silver Peak will provide ample opportunity for secure access service edge (SASE) solution differentiation. Simply stated, SASE delivers converged network and security capabilities as a single service. Differentiation is essential for HPE, given that SD-WAN is a crowded space. Beyond that, the benefits of integrating networking and security cannot be disputed, because it mitigates the blind spots that often occur with bolted-on security point solutions, and because of the operational efficiencies arising from consistent policies and controls.
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What I like about HPE’s acquisition of Axis Security is that it provides critical functionality in the form of security service edge (SSE), leveraging a smart-routing capability. Axis claims to be the first connectivity-as-a-service platform that integrates zero trust network access (ZTNA), secure web gateway (SWG), cloud access security broker (CASB) and digital experience monitoring functionality in a single, unified architecture. That makes for a compelling offering and marrying it with Silver Peak’s SD-WAN feature depth could position HPE for future success with tangible differentiation.
Extending reach into operational technology environments
HPE has developed considerable capabilities in the telecommunications industry through its Communications Technology Group (CTG) business unit. This effort has borne fruit in several areas, including 4G and 5G orchestration and automation, open radio access network (RAN) solutions with accelerator card support and disaggregated, telco-grade computing platforms that provide a cost-disruptive platform for core cellular network functionality. However, until recently, this activity was focused exclusively on the communication service provider market. A prior partnership with Celona allowed HPE to cross-sell a private networking solution to its enterprise customers. The opportunity to architect its own offering did not materialize until HPE acquired Athonet in June of this year.
Athonet now provides HPE with the needed mobile core software platform to allow it to deliver its own private 5G networking solution- a topic I wrote about recently. The opportunity for the HPE Aruba Networking team is enormous—leveraging its enterprise footprint in the IT-carpeted, knowledge worker occupied spaces of its customers to extend into operational technology (OT) environments such as manufacturing, transportation and logistics. These workflows have traditionally been unconnected or a mishmash of modalities that don’t scale, and there is great benefit in making them “smart.” There are also other greenfield private networking opportunities tied to smart city deployments, mining and port operations, retail, healthcare and more that create significant sales upside for the company. I believe that Mottram’s strong service provider experience will significantly influence how HPE approaches its entry into private networking and its long-term success.
Under its prior leadership, HPE Aruba Networking cemented itself as a leading networking, edge and security infrastructure provider. However, with a spate of recent acquisitions and under Mottram and Hughes, the company’s networking unit is thriving. The portfolio continues to expand, as does HPE’s addressable market for Wi-Fi, software-defined networking and security solutions as well as adjacent cloud-delivered 5G IT and OT connectivity services. Quite a lot has transpired with HPE Aruba Networking and its contributions to HPE over nearly a decade, and my bet is that the best is yet to come.