Thursday, August 18, 2022

HPE: Aruba Central Review

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) acquired Aruba in 2015 and maintains the brand because of its strong reputation in Wi-Fi, switching, software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN), and other networking equipment.

HPE Aruba Central accelerates the scaling of network infrastructure to support thousands of remote users, data centers, cloud applications, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and operational technology (OT).

Aruba Central achieves this scale through consolidated management of secure overlay virtual private network (VPN) tunnels from access points (APs) to SD-WAN gateways deployed throughout public cloud and private data center infrastructure.

See below to learn all about HPE Aruba Central and where it stands in the network management market:

Review of HPE Aruba Central

HPE and the network management market

HPE Aruba Central competes in the network management market. 

Maximize Market Research only predicts global revenue of $7.84 billion for the network management market, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.2%. Market Reports World projects a market size of $8.14 billion, with a 6.3% CAGR, and Market Research Future expects a CAGR of 10.46% and an eventual market size of $18.24 billion in 2027.

Key competitors in the network management market include:

  • Alcatel-Lucent
  • Aruba Networks
  • Avaya
  • BMC Software
  • CA Technologies
  • Cisco
  • Dell Technologies
  • Ericsson
  • Extreme Networks
  • Flowmon Networks
  • IBM
  • Juniper Networks
  • Manage Engine
  • Micro Focus
  • Netscout System
  • Praessler
  • Riverbed Technology
  • Solarwinds Worldwide

Key features

HPE Aruba Central enables network management from a cloud-hosted software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution or via on-premises hardware and software licenses. Although, on-premises deployment may require multiple appliances to enable all features. Other features include:

  • Network management features: such as device onboarding, configuration, monitoring, and troubleshooting; UI and template-based group configuration; and configuration audits
  • Monitoring and reporting features, such as network health, summary, and Wi-Fi connectivity dashboards; network topology view; visual RF floor plans; client and access point lists and details; application visibility; 30 days of stored data; and audit trails
  • Security features, like client profiles and wireless intrusion detection and prevention services (IDPS)
  • Troubleshooting capabilities, such as network checks, live events for clients and access points, and pack capture
  • API integration, with the ability to dynamically ingest or share telemetry with third-party IT systems
  • AI connectivity features, such as the ability to use AI/ML to automatically detect and isolate the cause of Wi-Fi connectivity issues, the ability to analyze wireless quality, dynamic log analysis, coverage hole detection, and the ability to transmit power optimization

Key benefits

Customers that purchase network management solutions from HPE can look for the following key benefits.

Automated Security at Scale

Network management solutions eliminate inconsistent policies, site-specific security profiles, and gaps in visibility. The overarching management solution consolidates all security information and pushes consistent policies out to all levels of the organization.

Each gateway and switch become an enforcement point and information gathering resource. The management tool coordinates authentication of users, onboarding of trusted devices, profiling of clients, and secure migrations.

Efficient Network Operations

Overarching network management solutions streamline network analysis and can identify potential problems quickly. Management solutions also execute automated processes to rapidly onboard, configure, and provision new devices.

Unified and consistent policies will automatically be pushed out to devices with minimal human oversight required. The network management software can also implement SD-WANs quickly and efficiently to enable hardened segmentation for remote work, branch office connections, and IoT.

Network Visibility

A network manager provides a single source to monitor overall and site-specific data for even the largest enterprise networks. Alerts, performance statistics, and client data flow into the HPE Aruba Central manager for AI-enabled monitoring and analysis of network health, application health, voice over IP (VoIP) performance, device health, and Wi-Fi connectivity issues.

Use cases

Brasfield & Gorrie

Brasfield & Gorrie General Contractors manage more than 200 active job sites, where modern technology such as drones, IoT, and streaming data play critical roles in reducing costs and improving worker safety. Their IT teams needed a centrally managed SD-WAN that efficiently managed their wired and wireless networks in their 12 offices and at temporary job sites.

HPE Aruba Central’s AIOps have reduced troubleshooting time by 75%, saved costs by 50%, and enabled highly reliable communications even in challenging conditions.

“Our Aruba SD-Branch infrastructure supplies us with reliable, flexible, and scalable connectivity at our branch offices and jobsites, whether in a rural area, with little communications backbone, or a highly developed urban area with ample circuits,” says Brad Hamilton, director of IT operations and infrastructure, Brasfield & Gorrie.

Homebase

Homebase seeks to establish smart living as a service (SLaaS) to reduce costs for building owners while simultaneously increasing appeal and living experiences for residents. To securely achieve the highly connected building automation apps and IoT devices, Homebase needed a scalable and reliable network that could improve building troubleshooting and overall maintenance.

Adopting HPE’s Aruba Central reduced the average maintenance ticket by 20 minutes and increased property net operating income by 20%.

“For example, after a unit’s smart thermostat runs for a certain number of hours the app can notify management the HVAC filter needs changing, automatically order the part for direct shipment to the appropriate unit, and notify the resident,” says Blake Miller, founder and CEO, HomeBase.

Vestavia Hills City Schools

The 7,200 students and 700 employees of the Vestavia Hills City Schools struggled with their legacy wired and wireless networking infrastructure to grow and encourage digital learning.

“As we were rapidly adopting cloud-based classroom applications and moving toward a 1:1 mobility environment, we needed to improve connectivity reliability, security and performance across the district,” says Keith Price, the director of technology, Vestavia Hills City Schools.

Adopting HPE Aruba Central created a centralized and consistent platform from which the IT teams could efficiently provision devices and dramatically improve trouble-shooting capabilities for Wi-Fi problems.

“Prior to implementing Aruba, teachers reported sporadic wireless connectivity,” Price says. “With Aruba and Central as a one-stop location for troubleshooting and correcting issues, we’ve reduced our teacher downtime from four or five hours to a few minutes.”

Differentiators

Customers that select HPE Aruba Central over competing products can consider the following differentiators.

AI-Powered Monitoring & Troubleshooting

Sprawling networking infrastructure can bog down network managers with irrelevant details, false alarms, and other distractions. HPE Aruba Central incorporates artificial intelligence to eliminate noise and enable intelligent monitoring, quick direction of problems, and rapid identification of root causes.

The AIOps capabilities of HPE Aruba Central develops dynamic per-site baseline profiles, detects anomalies, enables natural language troubleshooting searches, AI-assisted troubleshooting suggestions, and self-healing workflows.

Brand Power

Large enterprises gain comfort and security by using the largest technology partners with deep financial strength and a long history of support and development. HPE wraps the long history of Hewlett Packard and the strong technical reputation of Aruba into the brand perception of the HPE Aruba Central product and then leverages its enterprise-class product support network to increase perceived customer value.

Enhanced Security

HPE Aruba Central meets the expected basic security functions, such as standardized and unified security policies and visibility. Aruba Central then exceeds basic requirements with enhanced capabilities such as:

  • Rogue access point intrusion detection service (RAPIDS) to automatically identify rogue access points, unauthorized clients, and other potential threats.
  • Secure wireless segmentation for malls, airports, and other locations with requirements for multiple and overlapping wireless networks with different levels of required security.
  • Web content classification (WebCC) to rate website content by reputation and risk to proactively enable IT to block botnets, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) networks, and other malicious sites.

Wireless Optimization

HPE Aruba Central deploys patented wireless optimization techniques and algorithms to identify weaknesses and maximize performance for Wi-Fi networks:

  • AirMatch: Analyze periodic radio frequency data to improve wireless capacity and coverage controls.
  • Air Pass: Reduces costs and management overhead to handoff clients between cellular and Wi-Fi networks.
  • Air Slice: Dynamic allocation of bandwidth, time, frequency, and spatial streams to guarantee performance for bandwidth-hungry applications such as video conferencing.
  • ClientMatch: Enhances traditional radio and roaming techniques with enhanced connectivity for Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 clients.

User reviews

Overall HPE and specific reviews on some of its products are available on Gartner Peer Insights. There, HPE Aruba Central receives an overall rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars from users.

Pricing

HPE Aruba Central can be deployed as SaaS, on-premises, or as a managed service. HPE Aruba generally sells through partners and does not publicly disclose pricing; however, some partners have published non-discounted list pricing for appliances.

On-premises HPE Aruba Central deploys as appliances, which will support a limited number of devices, and multiple appliances are required to obtain redundancy, API integration, and AI connectivity.

Pricing needs to be determined by consulting with HPE channel or sales reps due to the complexity of the licensing. For example, separate subscriptions (available in 1-, 3-, 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms) are required for:

  • Every network device and switch that customers wish to manage with Aruba Central On-Premises
  • Perpetual software license required to configure and monitor Access Points
  • Optional add-ons for Policy Enforcement Firewall (PEF) and RFprotect (RFP) capabilities.
  • Subscriptions for Aruba Central On-Premises (software support only)

A separate Foundation Care contract with Aruba is required for hardware support. Access Point and SD Branch Gateway licenses are available with several different levels of licensing, such as Foundation, Advanced, and with Security — each with their own pricing.

Managed service agreements will require customized billing based on statements of work (SOWs) that may include licensing fees within the stated costs.

Conclusions

The number of devices dependent upon wireless connectivity increases every day.  Network managers need a unified platform to manage, troubleshoot, optimize, secure, and connect multi-location and multi-segmented networks to internet and internal resources. HPE Aruba Central builds from Aruba’s legacy of strength in wireless networking devices to deliver AI-powered network management supported by their extensive vendor network and enterprise grade technical support. Any organization looking to modernize their network should include HPE Aruba Central for testing and evaluation.

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