Aruba's new products improve wireless connections

The HPE subsidiary's wireless LAN sports speeds up to 1.7 Gbps

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Aruba announced networking software and hardware today that include a new wireless access point that can support Skype for Business and Wi-Fi calling at speeds above 1 gigabit per second.

The new Aruba 330 series Wave 2 access point runs on 802.11ac and can support speeds up to 1.7 Gbps -- the kind of speed needed for video collaboration and other latency-sensitive services.

The 330 will sell for $1,695 when available in the second quarter. Aruba, a subsidiary of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, also announced a new 3810 Series switch for $4,299, available now. New Aruba software upgrades will improve user experiences on corporate networks -- by prioritizing real-time applications over Wi-Fi, for example -- and enhance security.

Aruba customer Pacific Life plans to upgrade gradually to new Aruba APs to help support up to 2,000 wireless devices of various types on its networks every day, said Alex Munro, assistant vice president of corporate IT enterprise technologies, in an interview. The financial services company already has about 750 Aruba APs in three main locations, including its headquarters in Newport Beach, Calif.

Pacific Life is testing Windows 10 and Microsoft Surface Pro devices to potentially replace some iPads used by employees, Munro said. The switch would be made to take fuller advantage of Windows 10 and, specifically, the newer versions of Office.

Overall, he said, workers using Skype and other collaboration tools need to be able to move freely and stay productive."Our goal is to have employees 100% productive whether they are in a conference room or walking around," he said. "It's really about having good communications."

One big advantage of working with Aruba APs is that the hardware can support five different wireless LAN networks at Pacific Life on the same device, he said. One of those networks is used for authenticating company-owned devices, while another is for personally owned devices and yet another is for guests. "We have multiple security profiles; the nice thing is that Aruba lets you run all five profiles on the same AP," he said.

Pacific Life has been an Aruba customer more than five years and has used its AirWave network management software for a couple of years to provide performance monitoring, mainly to see a single user's Wi-Fi experience when passing between APs.

A new software module announced by Aruba called Clarity, available in March, will help IT shops resolve Wi-Fi connection problems before a user is affected, Aruba also announced today. Another new product, AirWave 8.2, will give IT shops details about wasted Web usage for content that an organization deems lower priority.

Pricing for both software products was not announced.

Another software upgrade -- which will be free for existing customers -- is Aruba ClearPass Policy Manager 6.6. It will let IT teams beef up security with multi-factor authentication on mobile devices and more detailed forensics about security breaches.

Munro said his company should be able to benefit from the purchase of Aruba by HP last May, since Pacific Life owns both HP data center servers as well as Aruba gear.

Aruba-HPE is the top competitor to Cisco in mobile networking products; Cisco has about 47% of the market compared to 17% for Aruba-HPE according to Infonetics Research. Ruckus Wireless, Aerohive Networks and Zebra Technologies each have less than 10% market share.

"The ability to have better visibility into network health is an important step for managing networks," said Matthias Machowinski, an analyst at Infonetics. "You can buy standalone tools from third party vendors, but Aruba is making [management] simple to deploy as an add-on module via their management platform."

Aruba's approach "appears to be veering toward the territory of predictive analytics and self-healing and self-optimization," added Nolan Greene, an analyst at IDC. Such features are what other network vendors are moving towards, "but Aruba-HPE will be an early announcer and is truly rethinking how to optimize the campus network for mobile-first users, which is unique."

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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