HPE Acquisition of Aruba a Boon for Both, Executives Say

At Aruba's user conference, Meg Whitman and Dominic Orr tell attendees that both companies have benefited from HPE's $3 billion deal for Aruba.

HPE executives

LAS VEGAS—Dominic Orr spent much of his time last year at Aruba Networks' user conference assuring customers and partners that Hewlett-Packard's planned acquisition would be good for the company but would not fundamentally change what they liked about Aruba.

A year later, Orr—who was CEO of Aruba at the time, and now is president of Aruba and senior vice president at Hewlett Packard Enterprise—was back on stage here laying out how the company is still focused on innovation, customer support and service, and partner relationships, while also taking advantage of the benefits that come with being part of a larger company that has the size and reach of an HPE.

He also had some help pushing that message forward when HPE CEO Meg Whitman joined him on stage to talk about what having Aruba in the fold has meant to the larger company.

"I think it's worked out great," Whitman told the 2,000 or so Aruba partners and customers—who call themselves Airheads—who packed the auditorium at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas here March 8 for the opening keynote in Aruba's Atmosphere 2016 user conference.

She also assured the attendees that Orr and his team would have broad authority not only over the development of Aruba's products, but over the direction of HPE's entire networking portfolio. In addition, Whitman said she is as committed to the channel as Aruba officials are.

"We are a partner-centric company," the CEO said. "It is in the DNA of this company."

When the $3 billion acquisition was announced early last year, the idea was that the combination of HPE's strength in wired networking technology would mesh well with Aruba's wireless network expertise to create a tightly integrated offering that would help HPE better compete with the likes of Cisco Systems.

The initial results have been good. During HPE's first financial quarter as a new company after HP split in November 2015 and created two independent tech vendors, the company saw networking revenues jump 62 percent year-over-year, due in part to Aruba. During a conference call March 4 to talk about the results, Whitman said Aruba's presence within HPE showed the industry that "we're completely committed to the networking business."

"We are all in on networking, and while we had HP Networking before, I think people thought, 'Well, maybe they are not 100 percent committed, maybe a bit below scale,'" she said, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha. "With the acquisition of Aruba, they've gained a great deal of confidence in our product roadmap and in our commitment to the business, and so Aruba I think has cast a really nice glow over the rest of our HP networking business."

At the show, Whitman said Aruba gives HPE "a key strategic weapon in the market against Cisco."

Orr said the year with HPE has given Aruba a boost. The company has reached a $1 billion annual run rate and has been able to grow the ecosystems around such technologies as AirWave, ClearPass and Meridian, he said. In addition, Aruba has worked with HPE and other vendors—such as VMware, Broadcom and Cavium—to develop a version of the OpenSwitch open-source networking operating system for HPE.

Not surprisingly, Whitman noted the $1 billion run rate, calling it an important milestone.

In addition, Aruba has doubled its sales, services and IT teams, and is opening more offices around the world. Orr also talked about an array of new and enhanced integrated wired and wireless software and hardware—including management software, switches and wireless access points—that the company unveiled earlier in the day and some of which merged technologies from both Aruba and HPE. That included the new ArubaOS-Switch, a unified OS that combines the best features of the ArubaOS and HPE ProvisionOS operating systems.

At the same time, Orr noted that key tenets of Aruba's business—from innovation to customer service to partner support and relationships—have remained after the HPE acquisition.

"We told you last March that there were certain things that were not going to change when we become part of HP," he said.

HPE's Whitman noted that the company is transforming from "selling speeds and feeds to selling business outcomes," and that it's a significant change for HPE that was fueled in part by the culture that came over with Aruba.