Interview

TOWARDS SECURE, INTELLIGENT EDGE-TO-CLOUD NETWORKING

A leader in secure, intelligent edge-to-cloud networking solutions, Aruba leverages AI to automate the network, while harnessing data to drive powerful business outcomes.

The year gone by will go down the memory lane as a year of mixed experience. Starting from the widening market opportunities to a somewhat visible respite from the raving pandemic, from being the year of Europe’s greatest war since World War II that pushed the pandemic-battered global economy and the European markets into recession to a year of greater cybersecurity concerns — 2022 has seen it all.

In a series of interactions with the poster-boys of Indian IT, SME Channels embarks upon understanding how leading vendors and distributors have fared in the year gone by; what drives their growth engine; the key milestones for 2023 set from the channel perspective; key channel predictions for the New Year; direction for channel partners and their growth roadmap for 2023.

We spoke to Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, and a leading provider of secure, intelligent edge-to-cloud networking solutions, to get a sneak peek into its performance in the channel market and its key channel predictions for 2023.

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“To be successful in 2023, channel partners must understand that SLA measurements will be based on user experience, not box uptime and link availability.”

Prakash Krishnamoorthy,
Director,
Aruba India

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Aruba makes use of AI to automate the network, while harnessing data to drive powerful business outcomes. With Aruba ESP (Edge Services Platform) and as-a-service options as part of the HPE GreenLake family, Aruba takes a cloud-native approach to helping customers meet their connectivity, security, and financial requirements across campus, branch, data center, and remote worker environments, covering all aspects of wired, wireless LAN, and wide area networking (WAN).

In an exclusive chat with SME Channels, Prakash Krishnamoorthy, Director, Aruba India, reveals his company’s key channel Predictions for 2023, major achievements and the unique matrixes that design his seminal vision for the Partner Ecosystem. Edited Excerpts:

Please give a brief introduction of your company. 

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, is the global leader in secure, intelligent edge-to-cloud networking solutions that use AI to automate the network, while harnessing data to drive powerful business outcomes. With Aruba ESP (Edge Services Platform) and as-a-service options as part of the HPE GreenLake family, Aruba takes a cloud-native approach to helping customers meet their connectivity, security, and financial requirements across campus, branch, data center, and remote worker environments, covering all aspects of wired, wireless LAN, and wide area networking (WAN).

Recently, Aruba was positioned as a Leader in the 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Wired and WLAN Infrastructure. This was the 17th year the company has been positioned as a leader. Additionally, in the Gartner companion report “Critical Capabilities for Enterprise Wired and Wireless LAN Infrastructure,” Aruba scored among the three highest scoring vendors across all five Use Cases, with the highest scores achieved for Remote Branch Office and WLAN-Only Refresh/New Build Use Cases.

As the war in Europe refuses to end anytime soon and China bubbles with uncertainty and the world economy is yet to come out of the pandemic shock, what major market trends would forecast for 2023? 

As we enter 2023, the events of the last couple of years have left their mark with staffing shortages, inflationary pressures, supply chain disruption, and geo-political unrest. These dynamics have accelerated or even forced business transition and, in some cases, caused a rethinking of fundamental business models. The network now plays an even stronger role, powering the transformation journey that is needed to thrive during uncertainty and preparing organizations for what comes next in 2023. Given these factors, here are some of the key market trends we see for the year ahead:

  • By the end of 2023, 20% of organizations will have adopted a NaaS strategy: With tightening economic conditions, IT requires flexibility in how network infrastructure is acquired, deployed, and operated to enable network teams to deliver business outcomes rather than just manage devices. Migrating to a network-as-a-service (NaaS) framework enables IT to accelerate network modernization yet stay within budget, IT resources, and schedule constraints. In addition, adopting a NaaS strategy will help organizations meet sustainability objectives because leading NaaS suppliers have adopted carbon-neutral and recycling manufacturing strategies.
  • Built-in security will replace bolt-on: Reducing cybersecurity risk has become a core operational concern. Transformation to a more automated security architecture is an IT imperative. Organizations can no longer bolt-on perimeter firewalls around the network to protect against threats and vulnerabilities. Security must be built-in to every aspect of the network infrastructure, from Wi-Fi access points to LAN, campus and data center switches, WAN gateways, and extending into the cloud. Zero Trust and SASE frameworks will become more intertwined, not only to protect from threats but to apply micro-segmentation across the complete IT stack, including users, connected devices, applications, network services, compute, and storage platforms.
  • Location services will enable new business models and greater efficiency: Challenging skilled labour markets and recurring supply chain issues will force companies to become more efficient, productive, and resourceful. Pivoting towards achieving situational awareness of assets, inventories, work in process, workers, customers, contractors, and supply chains will enable better control of costs, resources, quality, and intellectual property. This will require merging information technology (IT), Internet of Things (IoT), and operational technology (OT) data with contextual information about the environment. A new focus will be placed on obtaining the accurate location of work activity and assets, the identity of people and machines, the real-time applications being used and by whom or what, and the security posture of every device and machine.
  • IT will consolidate operations onto a single, centralized network and security management platform: More diverse digital technology is being deployed by enterprises to improve user experiences and to streamline IT operations. At the same time, employees and customers expect a better integrated real life/digital experience, regardless of the enterprise business model. These dynamics have added complexity to both network and security and have made managing the infrastructure more complex. With an intensified focus on end user quality of experience while increasing protection from cyberattacks, IT will look to a single centralized management system, with visibility across the network and the ability to configure edge to cloud QoS and security policies.
  • SLA measurements will be based on user experience, not box uptime and link availability: IT must optimize their networks to meet hybrid working requirements. Businesses will have dedicated teams whose priority is to ensure a seamless end user digital experience for employees and customers. Adapting to a client-based view, rather than a network view, requires complete end-to-end visibility and application-level insights to ensure the quality of experience meets end user expectations. Tight control of network performance is no longer sufficient. Being able to identify and troubleshoot application response time and performance issues rapidly and remotely will be essential to ensure a seamless end user digital experience, no matter from where users connect.
  • AIOps will shift from primarily offering insights to delivering automated remediation: With AI, cloud adoption, and access to vast amounts of data now common in enterprise-class network management solutions, automation takes center stage. Identifying the clustering of similar error symptoms across a full-stack network is leading to orchestrated workflows that will more readily give IT organizations the option to allow solutions to automatically remediate an issue. The need to streamline IT efficiency and do more with less is driving human-assisted workflows, which will enable administrators to examine recommended changes and their impact, and then enable remediation of on-going occurrences into production.

What key mega trends do you foresee emerging in the channel market? 

There is a culture shift happening right now – the increased value consumers are placing on “experiences” over “things”, and the decline in needing to “own something” has already touched our everyday lives. This same shift will begin to play out in the enterprise as well in the coming year, with organizations being less focused on devices and capex, and more focused on the business outcomes of their technology investments. In addition, organizations want greater financial flexibility and cost predictability, while being able to increase IT efficiency and keep pace with innovation. A flexible infrastructure consumption model allows for all of this. For those organizations that aren’t fully ready to take the plunge, flexible consumption models provide the option to “try before buying,” so that enterprises can adopt the new model – or not – at their own pace. This will drive a big increase in demand, and therefore market opportunity, for consumption based services like NaaS in 2023 and savvy channel partners will focus on building out offerings in this area.

Given this, to help our channel partners be successful both in the near term and into the future, we are empowering them to evolve their business to deliver as-a-service solutions. Our goal is to give our partners the tools and flexibility to deliver modern cloud services in different ways, depending on where they and our shared customers are in their digital transformation journeys. We help our partners stand out by recognizing their unique expertise and capabilities, and enable them to lead with their own IP, building out managed services offerings, and adding more annual recurring revenues to their balance sheet.

Which areas you want to focus in the channel – skillsets, sales and marketing, vertical and technology practice development, service capability, etc.? 

To start, I would like to say that our partners are at the centre of everything we do as a company. As a channel-focused business, we are dedicated to making ongoing investments to make sure we give our partners the programmes, tools, and resources they need, to stay on top of changing market conditions and serve as trusted advisors to their clients. Over 90% of Aruba’s revenue comes through the channel, therefore it’s important for us to focus on their sales and service capabilities.

In that direction, we have taken a host of initiatives. To begin with, we are continuing to expand our sales and technical channel enablement programmes into SD-WAN to support our Edge Connect and SD-Branch solutions. We are investing in Partner Success Managers to support the development of partners’ Customer Success Management (CSM) practises and the tools that partners need to execute our Aruba CSM sales playbooks. As investing in selling tools continues to be our focus, we introduced Aruba Value Assessment (AVA) across the Aruba Edge Services Platform (ESP) portfolio, which will assist partners in producing a very professional ROI document from a straightforward template that is tailored to each customer circumstance.

To strengthen the service capability of our partners, the HPE Partner Ready Vantage programme was one of the most significant projects we launched over the last year. Building on the award-winning HPE Partner Ready programme, HPE Partner Ready Vantage was created with the specific goal of assisting partners in adjusting to and thriving in the modern, changing industry.  The program provides flexibility for partners to identify and pursue new opportunities, strengthen customer relationships, expand their market reach, and provide comprehensive solutions that deliver quantifiable business outcomes for customers. In short, HPE Partner Ready Vantage allows partners to deliver the solutions their customers want, in the ways that best meet their own business goals. Aruba Sell and Service Tracks are available to partners through this program. Aruba Sell Track helps our partners offer value-added solutions from across the HPE portfolio in an as-a-service model.

With the Aruba Service Track, our partners can expand or deepen partner-led services under their own brands or HPE in order to expand their commercial potential. Partners will be able to build strong expertise in consulting, advisory, deployment, migration, assessment, customer success and managed services offerings by specializing in various areas of expertise.

What is your expectation from the channel this year? 

To be successful in 2023, channel partners must understand that SLA measurements will be based on user experience, not box uptime and link availability. Partners must work with customers to optimize their networks to meet hybrid working requirements. Adapting to a client-based view, rather than a network view, requires complete end-to-end visibility and application-level insights to ensure the quality of experience meets end user expectations. Tight control of network performance is no longer sufficient. Being able to identify and troubleshoot application response time and performance issues rapidly and remotely will be essential to ensure a seamless end user digital experience, no matter from where users connect.

In addition, with tightening economic conditions, IT requires flexibility in how network infrastructure is acquired, deployed, and operated to enable network teams to deliver business outcomes rather than just manage devices. Partners that adopt a NaaS offering will help customers’ IT groups to accelerate network modernization yet stay within budget, IT resources, and schedule constraints. In addition, adopting a NaaS strategy will help organizations meet sustainability objectives because leading NaaS suppliers have adopted carbon-neutral and recycling manufacturing strategies.

Are you planning any new product addition for the channel market? 

One of the most important initiatives we undertook over the last year was launching the HPE Partner Ready Vantage program. This new HPE Partner Ready Vantage program provides partners with the flexibility to meet customer demands and accelerate their customers’ business outcomes. The program includes three distinct tracks; Build, Sell and Service. With this program, our partners are better able to target the business outcomes their customers are looking for. We will continue to evolve this important program.

In addition,in 2023, we are expecting increased focus on sustainability for businesses. As a result, channel partners that can speak authoritatively about assisting businesses in reducing their energy footprints will stand out.

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