LAS VEGAS—Aruba Networks CEO Dominic Orr faced the challenging task during his keynote on the opening day of the Atmosphere 2015 conference of telling the 5,000 or so users who enthusiastically call themselves "Airheads" why being bought by Hewlett-Packard is a good deal while ensuring them that the attributes they love most about Aruba won't change.
Orr brought with him a number of talking points, from showing how the business world is going increasingly mobile and how that is driving demand for converged wired and wireless networking architectures, to how being part of HP will give users access to more products and resources, and how he and Keerti Melkote, Aruba's co-founder and chief strategy and technology officer, will still run the business even after the $2.7 billion deal closes in the next few months.
The two companies announced the acquisition the day before Orr gave his keynote here March 3.
Aruba's wireless platform will remain open to third-party technologies and will continue to leverage the broad array of partnerships, Orr said. Within HP, he will continue to stress the need for the wireless networking technology to remain open, software-defined and mobility-centric, and users will continue to be able to choose whatever products—from whatever vendors—work best for them.
"Our primary focus is to continue to excel … in this enterprise wireless networking space," the CEO said. "You have my word that we will not limit your choice of wireless products."
He also had HP CEO Meg Whitman (pictured) remotely address the crowd from the Mobile World Congress 2015 show in Barcelona, Spain. Whitman—speaking on a massive screen that dwarfed Orr—talked about the excitement the deal was generating among customers and partners at the show across the Atlantic Ocean and how important a role Aruba and its customers will play in boosting the wireless capabilities of HP's networking business.
"The strategic intent is to allow Aruba to prosper and scale," she said.
Whitman also hit on a note that Orr and other partners reiterated throughout the keynote: that a combined HP and Aruba represented a significant challenge to networking leader Cisco Systems.
"The market is looking for an alternative to the incumbent," Whitman said, adding—in response to a question from Orr—that Cisco CEO John Chambers misspoke recently when he said that his company had won the networking battle. "When John says it's game over, I say it's game on. Go beat Cisco. We are on the hunt, and they won't know what hit them."
The crowd responded enthusiastically, but there was a mixture of feelings about the deal before the keynote, with some users talking about their negative experiences dealing with HP while others said they were excited about what hooking up with the tech giant will mean.
The continuity of leadership will be important in easing users' minds about the deal, according to Neil MacDonald, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. After the acquisition is complete, Orr and Melkote will lead HP Networking, which should give Aruba users comfort that HP will continue to innovate and scale the Aruba technology, MacDonald told eWEEK.
The Gartner analyst said the deal, which is expected to close by October, works for both vendors. For Aruba, it's an issue of scale. The 13-year-old company will see its customer base, number of service providers and sales force grow.
"It's putting the growth [that Aruba has seen to this point] on steroids," MacDonald said.
HP gets to accelerate its efforts to create a unified wired and wireless networking offering.
"HP has been a growing [vendor] in wired and campus networking," he said. "What Aruba brings to the table is the wireless component. [The acquisition] makes a great deal of sense."