Dominic Orr for much of last week had to battle a nasty head cold, but it didn’t appear to slow him down.
Throughout Aruba Networks’ three-day Atmosphere 2016 user conference in Las Vegas, Orr—the company’s president—was seemingly everywhere, pacing the stage in front of 2,500 attendees during his keynote address, standing with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) CEO Meg Whitman addressing executives and partners, sitting through interviews with journalists and in the hallways taking selfies with various users of Aruba’s technologies who call themselves “Airheads.”
It was an important event for the 14-year-old wireless networking vendor. Days before the Atmosphere event last year, HPE announced it was buying Aruba for $3 billion, a move that put customers and partners on edge. Orr spent much of the time during the 2015 show trying to ease their worries.
Orr—who now also is senior vice president at HPE in charge of the company’s networking unit—was back this year outlining how being part of HPE has been a significant benefit to Aruba, both in what it has done and what it hasn’t done. It has meant an infusion of resources, doubling its sales, services and IT teams, and hitting an annual run rate of $1 billion, as well as opening more offices globally, merging R&D and growing the ecosystems around such technologies as AirWave, ClearPass and Meridian. It also has meant greater access to the highest levels of customers’ corporate structures, Orr told eWEEK.
“The biggest assistance HPE has brought to us is their relationships with the CIO,” he said in an interview.
Before, when Aruba was working with a larger enterprise, negotiations would start with IT officials before moving up the ladder. Aruba representatives wouldn’t talk with the CIOs until the deal was almost done. As an HPE company, Aruba now regularly begins talks with the CIO, then works its way down.
In addition, in many aspects the deal created what executives are calling a “reverse integration,” with many of the elements of Aruba’s “mobile-first” culture being imported into HPE. From the stage, Whitman said she will continue to give Orr wide latitude in implementing his vision for HPE’s networking business—though he warned that she may at times have to be a “roadblock” and say no.
Orr spoke with eWEEK about the direction Aruba and HPE’s networking business was taking, about what being part of HPE meant to him and other Aruba officials, and about key rival Cisco Systems. The interview came hours after Orr outlined an array of new products—mostly software—aimed at helping customers better manage, secure and monitor their wireless network environments and give end users a better user experience.
The new products highlighted the integration of HPE technology with Aruba’s, the growing importance of software in Aruba’s portfolio and the focus on enabling businesses to embrace the move to wireless as their employees become more mobile, a trend that Aruba has dubbed the #GenMobile workforce.
“Fundamentally, people are not going for desktop computers,” Orr said, noting that younger employees are now doing more of their work in a mobile fashion—on the road, from remote locations and on an array of devices, from notebooks to smartphones to tablets.
What this means is that companies need to change the way they look at networking, their employees and at how business is being done, and adjust accordingly. During the keynote, Orr said Aruba was focusing its efforts on four key tenets: the digital workplace, agile data centers, adaptive infrastructures and mobile engagement. All this requires that businesses take a mobile-first mindset, which is something that Aruba not only is bringing to its customers but also to HPE networking, and it’s a key differentiator between Aruba and Cisco, Orr said.
Aruba’s Orr Talks About a Mobile-First World
Businesses for the most part get what’s happening and the need to transition how they operate in a more mobile world, he said. About 20 to 30 percent of enterprises still need help in seeing the changes that need to happen. Most get that the transition isn’t easy and are working with vendors like Aruba and HPE to make it happen.
“Everybody understands it, but it’s somewhat messy,” Orr said.
The mobile-first mindset also is starting to take hold in HPE, according to Orr and other executives, including Whitman. Dominic Wilde, vice president of global product line management at Aruba, came to HPE in 2009 when the company bought networking vendor 3Com in 2009. Over the years the company built up its wireless business, but found that as the business world became more mobile, it wasn’t addressing all the areas it needed to, such as bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and some security segments.
“We had decent WiFi solutions and decent products that addressed connectivity, but not mobility,” Wilde told eWEEK. “We needed to find the wireless leader, and that was easy. IT was Aruba.”
Now Orr is integrating the mobile-first message into HPE’s entire networking business, part of the reverse integration that is happening at the company. The mobile network is at the forefront of what HPE is doing, though the wired side continues to play an important role.
It’s also a key differentiator when talking about Cisco, Orr said. HPE bought Aruba with the idea that the combination would give HPE a more complete networking portfolio to better compete with Cisco. That’s worked, Orr said. When Cisco talks about wireless, the company starts at the switch and works outward, with the focus on connectivity. However, Aruba and HPE start at the device and work their way back. They’re addressing the mobility aspect of the equation, he said.
Looking ahead, one area Orr said he wants to give more effort to is SMBs. Aruba and HPE have the midmarket and larger enterprises well-covered, he said. Both companies have strong channel partners, which will help with the smaller companies, which typically do not have large IT staffs but have similar needs to their larger brethren. Orr believes SMBs offer a $500 million opportunity, and he is hoping to move in that direction this year.