LAS VEGAS—Aruba Networks officials for several years have been talking about the changing workplace and the role of the wireless network in enabling workers who increasingly are looking for a more open, mobile, flexible and highly collaborative environment in which they are not tied to desks.
Offering the tools to help drive this evolving digital workplace has been a focus here this week at the company’s Atmosphere 2016 user and partner conference. Attendees are getting a glimpse of what Aruba has coming down the line that not only ensures WiFi connectivity, but also addresses such areas as data insights, security and collaboration.
Aruba two years ago identified what they call GenMobile, the next generation of employees coming into the workforce. They’re helping to fuel the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend—using a variety of devices for both their personal and work lives. They’re mobile, expect always-on connectivity and want their work environments to bend to their preferences.
The rapidly evolving workplace is creating multiple challenges for businesses, from finding ways to quickly and securely onboard these multiple mobile devices onto the network to creating a collaborative, flexible environment that the GenMobile workers are demanding. At the same time, new IT capabilities are enabling businesses to leverage mobile technologies to get better insight into their employees and customers as well as into their own networks.
“This has been a big change,” Keerti Melkote, Aruba’s co-founder and CTO, said in an interview with eWEEK, adding that businesses are looking for help in creating these new environments. “It’s been dramatic. … There’s no template for the open office, so they’re getting pretty creative.”
As the show here got underway, Aruba announced a range of new and enhanced products, from hardware like switches and wireless access points (APs) to new software features in such offerings as AirWave and ClearPass. During his keynote address March 9, Melkote offered more than 2,000 attendees a deeper look at some new features that will be launching over the next several months.
Many are designed to drive what the CTO calls the “contextual network.” With the rise of mobile computing, BYOD and the Internet of things (IoT), networks need to be more dynamic, agile and automated, able to adapt to who the user is, what device they’re using, what applications they’re running, where they are, and other pieces of information, and then adapt again when all that changes, Melkote said.
“Nuances have to be picked up by the network,” he told eWEEK.
The contextual data that the network holds can be used to improve the user experience and the performance and security of the network.
Aruba, which was bought last year by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, earlier this week introduced Clarity, a new software module within its AirWave network management offering that is designed to give network operators greater visibility into the access layer of the network—which includes users, devices and apps—to allow them to more proactively address potential problems before they impact the user experience. During Melkote’s keynote, Aruba engineers demonstrated Clarity Synthetic, a feature that enables users to test WiFi networks before they’re used and to address problems that arise.
School officials could use the technology to test their networks in the morning before students arrive for the day, and retail stores could test their networks before customers start coming in, they said. Clarity Live—the on-demand feature—will be available this month, while Clarity Synthetic will come later, they said.
Another technology coming later this year is AirMatch, a radio frequency (RF) management technology that uses data about an environment to automatically create a channel plan to ensure the best coverage. Melkote said Aruba was beta testing AirMatch at the Atmopshere show with 66 radios at the Cosmopolitan, where the event is being held.
Aruba Pushes Mobile Technology for the Digital Workplace
In addition, Aruba is working on a multi-zone AP technology the CTO said is tentatively being called “AirWall.” Currently, when multiple parties use the same AP for their wireless traffic, all that traffic is sent to the same controller, he said. In some situations—for example, where Verizon and AT&T share the same AP—the parties may not want their traffic being sent to the same controller.
With Aruba’s technology, the traffic from the different parties is sent to the same access point, but from there it can be separated and sent to different controllers.
Melkote also gave some insight into what users can expect with the upcoming Aruba OS 8.0 network operating system, which currently is in beta and is expected to be released in the summer. In addressing a demand from customers, Aruba will make the OS—which currently is used in Aruba hardware—available to run in virtual machines that can run in systems in the data center.
The move to disaggregate the Aruba OS is part of a larger effort by Aruba to offer more of its products in a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, he said,
Aruba also introduced a new location-based mobile feature based on the company’s Meridian platform that helps people locate others, something that Atmosphere attendees were finding useful. Location Sharing let’s people using the Aruba mobile app to locate others using the app and use a map to direct them to the other person. The company launched the app in beta at the show during Melkote’s address.
Also at the show, Aruba officials demonstrated what they are calling the CollaborationCube (pictured), an array of capabilities aimed at bringing more intelligence to the meeting room experience. Using such technologies as Aruba Beacons, WiFi technology and software and Microsoft’s Skype for Business and Office 365 products, the solution includes an app that customers can use to find and book a meeting room, and then sign into it. When meeting participants approach the room with their mobile devices, their names are automatically put on a small display by the door, and when they sit down, their device automatically connects to Microsoft Surfaces in the room and to displays on the wall that can be used for videos, content sharing and whiteboards.
A light in the room lets people know it’s being used, and other lights can be used to signal when the end of the meeting is approaching. When the meeting is over and people leave, the lights turn off and the information on the displays disappear, ready for the next meeting. The technology can be used for a range of other capabilities in the room, officials said. Attendees were able to go through a hands-on demonstration during the show, and Aruba is getting ready to have select customers begin testing it this summer.