Aruba Explains its Approach for Future of the Data Center

eWEEK NETWORKING NEWS ANALYSIS: As data centers evolve to centers of data, the network needs to play a different role.

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Saying the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world is about as massive an understatement as can be. It hasn’t been just societal and business-process changes; IT organizations have gone through one of the most profound changes ever. I’ve been in tech since the mid-’80s, and the only thing that can even come close to this massive shift in IT was the Y2K scare, but that was a known problem and companies had years to prepare for it. The pandemic came out of nowhere, and businesses had to adjust overnight.

One of the biggest changes has been the evolution of physical data centers to the cloud. The pandemic didn’t kick off the cloud era because organizations have been embracing the cloud for over a decade, but it certainly accelerated the adoption of it. Despite the rise and fervor over the cloud, not all data and applications are best served out of a centralized public cloud service. 

However, private data centers don’t meet the needs of all workloads, either. This has given rise to edge computing for use cases where the data needs to be as close to the user as possible. Also, branch offices and campus networks are also locations where workloads have run, and those certainly aren’t going away. 

Data centers evolve to centers of data 

If the definition of a data center is where data is stored, then an argument could be made that all of these locations are an extension of the data center. This is a trend that's driving the product evolution for Aruba Networks, a Hewlett-Packard Enterprise company. The company recently announced a new set of products to help organizations shift from data centers to what it’s calling “centers of data.” 

As organizations shift from data centers to centers of data, the network needs to evolve. The networks that powered legacy data centers were limited in reach to only that location, had disjointed architectures, were overly complex and required manual operations which were slow and error prone. With centers of data, the network needs to be much more agile and provide a consistent set of services from edge to data center. 

Also, IT organizations need to stop thinking about network silos where there is a WiFi network, campus network, WAN, data center network and branch network. Instead, network teams must have end to end visibility and streamlined operations across the end-to-end network. Also, network teams must work with the other sub-organizations in IT to create greater application consistency. Too often, I hear network teams focus on “mean time to innocence,” where the sole focus is to prove a business-impacting event isn’t the problem of the network. Instead, everyone should focus on delivering the best possible application experience. 

To enable this, Aruba announced a number of new products. Here are the highlights: 

Software-defined automation and orchestration 

The new Aruba Fabric Composer that provides the orchestration software so a discrete set of physical switches can be managed as a single, logical network fabric. This greatly simplifies day-to-day operations, becauseit makes it easier to push out configuration updates, policies and other changes network-wide. Also, troubleshooting is easier, because the network can be analyzed as a single entity instead of several discrete networks. 

Aruba Fabric Composer works with the Aruba CX switch line to optimize provisioning and application performance across a wide range of virtualized, hyper-converged, compute and storage systems, such as Nutanix, VMware and HPE’s own products. 

New switch series 

Aruba announced the new CX 8360 switch series, which expands on the company's Edge Services Platform (ESP) product line that enables companies to extend cloud-managed network equipment across the entire network. The new series is built on Aruba’s cloud native AOS-CX operating system and includes Aruba’s embedded Network Analytics Engine (NAE) at no cost.

There are five different switches in the family that offer 1/10/24/40/100 GbE and can be used in a spine-and-leaf configuration or as part of an edge stack. Details of the switches are: 

  • 12 ports 40/100G 
  • 32 ports 10/25G with 4 ports 40/100G (w/MACsec)
  • 16 ports 10/25G with 2 ports 40/100G
  • 48 ports 1G/10G Base-T with 4 ports 40/100G
  • 24 ports 1G/10G with 2 ports 40/100G

Aruba integration into HPE solutions 

HPE has owned Aruba now for almost five years, and these integrated solutions create a “1 + 1 = 3” scenario for customers. Aruba plus HPE offers many benefits over traditional network-only vendors by offering HPE GreenLake hybrid cloud services and infrastructure as a service to support customer workloads that are on-premises or fully managed in a pay-per-use model at the edge, in colocations or in data centers. 

Aruba network technology is used in a number of products such as the new GreenLake service offerings: VM-as-a-service, container-as-a-service, machine learning-as-a-service and SAP HANA database-as-a- service. These engineered solutions take all the tweaking and tuning complexity out of deployments, leading to faster time to market. 

The cloud has changed the way companies build and manage data centers. Siloed operations and infrastructure deployments will no longer cut it and cause companies to fall behind. Aruba’s new solutions, combined with HPE’s infrastructure components, can greatly simplify the evolution of data centers to centers of data. 

Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.