How Aruba Networks Uses ESP To Deliver AI at Enterprise Edge

eWEEK NETWORKING COMPANY ANALYSIS: Aruba’s Edge Services Platform adds intelligence to the network to improve user performance and reduce operational expenses.


This week Aruba Networks, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, held its digital version of its Atmosphere user event. The conference is typically the venue that Aruba makes big announcements and this year was no exception. The highlight of Aruba’s event, CEO/founder Keerti Melkote’s keynote, was the unveiling of its Edge Services Platform, a cloud-native platform that uses artificial intelligence to analyze the massive amounts of network data being generated to predict and fix problems quickly, often before they even happen. 

The network edge rises 

The need for an edge platform comes from the increased complexity of the network. At one time, networks were relatively simple: a bunch of wired devices that IT owned, managed and controlled plugged into a company network. Then came wireless technologies that added to the complexity as many people started using wireless devices. Next came the cloud, which added another level of complexity. 

Now the edge is seeing a sharp rise in activity. As apps move out of the data center and as workers have become increasingly mobile, the edge is where people, data and things come together to create new experiences. For example, the edge is where robots connect and where experiences are personalized. 

Siloed management plagues network operations 

All the increased activity at the network edge brings an entirely new set of challenges for IT leaders. However, network operations are hampered by the silo-like nature of management across the wired network, wireless LAN and WAN. Also, IoT devices continue to erode the security perimeter and visibility has been reduced as infrastructure moves out of IT’s direct control. As the network edge continues to grow in importance, legacy management methods will become increasingly less useful. 

Aruba uses ESP to see things people can’t 

Enter Aruba ESP, which is a turnkey solution that continually gathers data from every network domain and uses AI to ensure SLAs are being met, finds anomalies that can indicate future performance issues and then self-heal or optimizes the network. It also sees when unknown devices are connected to the network and automatically assigns them to a secure segment or quarantine them if they are exhibiting strange behavior. 

IoT is a huge problem for network managers. One of my surveys found that more than half of network managers have no or low confidence they know what devices are connected to the networks. As the axiom goes, you can’t manage or secure what you can’t see, and IT is seeing less and less. ESP sees everything, but more importantly, it uses AI to find insights in the data that no network engineer, no matter how seasoned and savvy, could find because the volume of data generated has exploded. 

The platform is built on the following three pillars: 

  • AIOps uses AI to find the root cause of problems, some of which IT may not even know about.  ESP can also proactively monitor user experience and then automatically tune the network or fix problems before they become an issue. This will dramatically reduce the overhead on the help desk. One of the more interesting aspects of ESP is the peer benchmarking capabilities. Aruba gathers anonymized customer metadata and compares one customer's network to their peers. ESP then will offer up prescriptive recommendations to secure and optimize the network. In its press release, Aruba cited a customer deployment that saw a 15% increase in network capacity and a 90% reduction in problem resolution time. Given how inefficient legacy network management is, I believe these numbers are reasonable. This can increase user experience but also cut costs, because the network does not need to be over-provisioned to make up for issues. 
  • Unified infrastructure consolidates all network operations for switching, WiFi and SD-WAN across campus, data center, branch and remote worker environments. Aruba has a single operating system that works across each of these domains and, I believe, they are the only vendor to offer that. Aruba Central is the “single pane of glass” that is used to see the data and then correlate cross-domain events to reduce resolution time and errors from manual operations. My research shows human error is still the largest cause of downtime, so ESP can increase network uptime significantly simply by eliminating the self-inflicted problems. 
  • Zero trust network security combines integrated role-based access technology, dynamic segmentation and identity based intrusion detection to automate the authentication, authorization and control of every endpoint connected to the network. Legacy networks are built in a model of everything that can talk to everything. Zero trust flips that and only enables things to talk to each other that showed. This can greatly limit the spread of malware. 

Aruba customers can use ESP any way they want, including a cloud solution, on-premises, as a managed service via an Aruba partner or as a service from HPE GreenLake. HPE also has a number of financing options to help customers with whatever economic situation they are in. Lastly, Aruba announced a new developer hub that includes Aruba APIs and documentation to streamline the development of innovative edge applications that leverage Aruba ESP. 

The edge is where the action is for most enterprise networks. Aruba’s ESP uses AI to bring a level of order and simplicity to an environment that has grown in complexity and chaos. 

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.