Aruba Networks is continuing to address the growing hybrid work environment with a new networking offering that is designed to make the remote work sites, including the home and retail pop-ups, mirror the in-office experience.
The company’s new EdgeConnect Microbranch is a single access point (AP) that delivers a broad array of connectivity services that are found in on-campus environments, from troubleshooting problems and zero-touch onboarding to software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) capabilities and security features like zero-trust and secure access services edge (SASE) security frameworks.
In addition, like other Remote Access Points (RAPs) from Aruba, the EdgeConnect Microbranch device can be managed via the company’s cloud-based Aruba Central networking management and monitoring solution.
Pandemic Accelerates IT Decentralization
Along with other networking vendors, Aruba, which is owned by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, for more than a decade has been adding to its portfolio of remote work products and has continued that effort since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced a dramatic shift to working from home, a change that has cemented the hybrid work model at many businesses since.
“Remote work and work-from-home, which may have been a transitory state a year ago, is no longer that,” Larry Lunetta, vice president of solutions portfolio marketing at Aruba, told Enterprise Networking Planet. “It’s part and parcel of how organizations now execute. More than 50 percent of workers are expected to be in some form of remote work, depending on the industry. Depending on your position, it could be much higher than that.”
This comes at a time when the IT and business worlds already were becoming increasingly decentralized, with the growing adoption of the cloud and the rapidly expanding edge. That already was forcing companies to find tech solutions to enable those working at home or other remote locations to have the tools needed to do their work. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated all that.
Aruba’s Expands Edge Services Platform
The EdgeConnect Microbranch is part of Aruba’s larger Edge Services Platform (ESP) that includes not only APs but also a suite of SD-WAN services inherited when HPE last year bought SD-WAN vendor Silver Peak for $925 million and folded it into Aruba, which has become the networking arm for the parent company.
SD-WAN is among the fastest-growing sectors of the larger networking market, driven in large part by rising demand for more performance and better security for applications in the cloud, according to market research firm Futuriom. The analysts noted in a report earlier this year that the market hit a “pandemic pause” in the first half of 2020, but is back on track and is now expected to grow an average of 34 percent a year, from $2.6 billion this year to $4.6 billion by 2023.
“As we move into this true hybrid work environment, where you may be in the office sometimes and you may be working remotely other times, you want as identical an experience as you can get,” Lunetta said. “That applies not just to someone who’s doing Zoom calls or working on Office 365, but those sort of non-remote-friendly types of functions like a call center. A lot of what we’ve built in via the SD-WAN services and SASE facilitates and is intended to enable those kinds of functions to be done remotely as they are in the office.”
Adding SD-WAN and SASE
The addition of SD-WAN and SASE—which essentially combines networking and network security functions—means that EdgeConnect Microbranch enables remote workers now have the same connectivity, identity-based access control, management and analytics features that have gotten from Aruba’s RAPs without having to use additional on-premises hardware or agents on devices.
The new offering ensures that work-from-home employees can run the latency-sensitive applications like unified communications and bandwidth-intensive devices that their in-office counterparts can with the same level of security, according to Aruba officials. Services include policy-based routing to ensure application traffic is optimized, scalability, and improved uptime and reliability.
New features include tunnel and route orchestration to ensure network performance by orchestrating VPN tunnels on demand and automated rerouting of traffic, SASE integration for secure connectivity to such cloud security services as Zscaler through the AP and enhanced WAS visibility.
“One of the things that we’ve done is enable EdgeConnect MicroBranch to run on any access point and that really opens up this idea of performance and scale that we perhaps didn’t have before with the specific access point that sat in the home,” Lunetta said. “Instead of having the need now for multiple access points, you can put in a Wi-Fi 6 or a Wi-Fi 6E Edg Connect MicroBranch and service a lot of endpoints and a lot of devices.”
The ability to offer myriad capabilities in its RAPs and EdgeConnect Microbranch is a competitive differentiator for Aruba against its competitors, he said.
“We feel like you have to be good at a number of things here,” Lunetta said. “You have to be good at connectivity, you have to be good at packaging hardware up in a way that can support these kinds of services, you have to be good at the cloud, you have to be good at security. We’ve seen new players come in that maybe are good at one of those, but can’t really cover the waterfront in terms of, how do you mirror the in-office experience in the home?”
The EdgeConnect Microbranch solution is available in early access, with general availability coming in March for any APs running the vendor’s ArubaOS 10 networking operating system with a Foundation AP License. Such licenses are available for $145 per AP and prices for Aruba APs starts at $575 for the Aruba 303H Series.
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