Networking & Communications

Aruba #Atmosphere2016: HP takeover, 'Gen Mobile' & automated networking

It is hard to imagine a world without wi-fi – it is so ubiquitous, in fact, that German churches are getting ‘Godspots’ and Russian cemeteries are receiving the equivalent experience for mourners.

Now the Aruba management team is keen to make the parallel between how hard it used to be to explain wi-fi – back when nobody understood it – and today’s struggles to articulate the latest next generation networking.

“We can solves tech challenges but we need to educate people too,” explains Chris Kozup, VP of Marketing.

This week I’m at Aruba Atmosphere EMEA in the Algarve, Portugal. It just over a year since the company was bought by HPE in a high publicity $3 billion takeover. And everyone is anxious to show how well things are working. As CEO and President Dominic Orr put it in a Network World article this March: “We acquired HP Networking when HP acquired us”.

Ultimately the HPE purchase has given Aruba greater public exposure and opened up its market to compete against its biggest rival Cisco.


Ensuring the community is happy about the HPE takeover

Aruba Atmosphere is an annual event – hosted in a different warm European location each year – which brings together the highly engaged (‘Airhead’) community of users for training, networking and top line business interactions. The event was cancelled last year due to unforeseen issues at the Turkish destination, and at 1300 attendees this is bigger than ever, and provides the first pan-EMEA platform for Orr to ensure the community is at ease with the transition. 

In his keynote he highlights a number of new Aruba developments – released this March – which show a concerted commitment to digital workplaces of the future, built-in security, mobile engagement and agile datacentres. He clarifies that all the usual company standards (Aruba launched in 2002) are still very strong. These take the shape of good feedback, open software and hardware and an unchanged “pace of innovations”.

To demonstrate the friendly face of networking – and benefits of good connectivity – Orr takes a selfie as soon once he hits the stage.


Highlighting the benefits of mobile working via good networking

The business benefits of mobile working and IoT are a very familiar enterprise story and Aruba is right behind this message. To promote the big idea, it has coined the term ‘Gen Mobile’, to differentiate tech savvy employees from more standard age-related divisions.

Via commissioned research [PDF] conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit it raises the much repeated point – based on a self-assessment survey – that productivity and employee satisfaction increase with better mobility. More interestingly though, it doesn’t place any emphasis on Millennials. Instead, from a sample of 1865, it suggests age is (virtually) irrelevant when it comes to mobile working and a genuine interest in utilising new technology is what counts.

The importance of IoT – and challenges associated with securing and implementing it – get talked about a lot. In fact, this is one area that Cisco is especially hot on. Yet this is still hard to show in practice. This is why one interesting proto-type product on display at the event is The Cube.

This is a totally self-contained smart meeting room from HPE which blends technology from a number of companies including Aruba, Citrix and Microsoft and has already done the round of trade shows since last December. Its aim is to make booking a meeting room and collaborating within them easier and is set to be used at HPE headquarters and to be tested on some beta customers.

When I ran through the physical demo, it took our photo at the end of the session, and sent me an automated email and tweet to show just how easy sharing content can be:


Looking ahead to a 2021 of automated, personalised networking

VP of Marketing, Kozup, is at pains to stress that the mind-set at Aruba is very different from its main competitor Cisco. The company is far more focused on cloud and mobile than “the ports”, he explains. The HPE acquisition has helped bring that out into the wider market place, he adds.

Kozup believes the most exciting work the company is doing at the moment is around mobile engagement. This allows a developer community to provide personalised content on your mobile phone and is neatly demonstrated by an event app which helps delegates navigate round the large confusing venue, via beacons, and provides individual schedules for those doing training.

In five years “we’ll start to take user experience very seriously,” adds Partha Narasimhan, CTO of Aruba, who has been with the company since the start.

He envisages a world where, like so many other areas, network management is automated – via big data and machine learning – to deliver more seamless consumer experiences. This would give deep insight into the traffic flow and deliver a personalised service based on visibility and analytics. The company is already putting the building blocks to achieve this.

As Orr puts it: “You need to predict problems before they happen”.

The big takeaway from this event appears to be that even in the darkest depths of enterprise IT, companies must learn to treat employees like consumers. This is not exactly new, but there is no denying it is a challenge, and Narasimhan adds Aruba can learn a lot from Apple.

“If we don’t do a good enough job we block the [whole] process [to development],” he says.  


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