Why Aruba Wants to Help Enterprises Adopt IoT

Company officials rolled out ClearPass Device Insight and new access points to let organizations more easily manage the myriad devices connecting to their networks.

Aruba Device Insight

LAS VEGAS—Aruba Networks officials are looking to give enterprises the tools to manage the growth of the internet of things and the impact it is having on those businesses.

At its Atmosphere 2019 user conference here April 2, Aruba—which essentially has become the networking and edge arm of parent Hewlett Packard Enterprise—unveiled a pair of new products designed to help customers get a better gauge on the devices that are access the network, enhance security as more of these devices connect and bring better visibility into this relatively new and unpredictable IoT environment.

At the same time, company officials spoke about Aruba’s relatively recent entrance into the burgeoning software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) space. The vendor is pushing a concept officials call SD-Branch, which they say expands on the concept to include the entire branch office rather than simply the connection between the branch and the cloud and the data center.

During his keynote address, Aruba founder, Senior Vice President and General Manager Keerti Melkote noted that companies in recent years have had to address the myriad challenges presented by the cloud. Now comes IoT, comprising billions of connected, intelligent systems, devices and sensors and an expectation that those numbers will only grow. Aruba officials estimate that more than 14 million devices are being added to the network each day.

'IoT is Happening, for Real'

“The next big thing—something that we’ve been talking about and is now happening for real—is IoT,” Melkote said.

Aruba has flourished since it was bought HPE in 2015 for $3 billion. The company is now HPE’s networking business and Melkote noted that at the time of the deal, Aruba was a $1 billion company, about the size as HPE’s networking business. Four years later, with HPE’s networking in the fold, the Aruba is now a $3 billion company, he said.

For several years it has been developing products designed to not only give enterprises easier and better wireless connectivity, but also—through such offerings as ClearPass, AirWave and Introspect—to give them greater visibility and management capabilities into their networks and what systems and devices are hooking into them.

At Atmosphere, Aruba officials introduced ClearPass Device Insight, a cloud-based platform that leverages artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and crowdsourcing to give organizations a way to automatically discover and fingerprint connected devices—including IoT devices—on any wireless or wired network, whether it’s an Aruba network or from some other vendor.

Device Insight can determine when and where a device as accessed the network, what the device is and what its IP and MAC addresses are, and then determine the policies that should surround it, such what it can and can’t access on the network. The product can identify the device’s maker, location, ports that are being used and the amount of traffic being generated by it.

Managed Through Single Pane of Glass

It also can react if the device causes a problem on the network. The company’s Data Science Laboratory developed technology that leverages custom-built deep-packet inspection to create behavior profiles that allow for fingerprinting of devices, they said. All of it is managed through a single pane of glass.

Enterprises can use Device Insight with ClearPass Policy Manager and Aruba’s Dynamic Segmentation security technologies to automate authentication and policy enforcement for the connected devices as well as remove the device if it acts in a way that threatens security.

According to Brandon Butler, senior analyst with IDC, the Device Insight capabilities makes sense at a time when so many devices are accessing the network.

“To do any kind of security with the network, you need to understand what’s on the network,” Butler told eWEEK.

Aruba also is expanding its lineup of 802.11ax access points to help enterprise embrace IoT through a converged network that includes integrated support for WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5 and Zigbee protocols, which company officials said will enable enterprises to connect with 74 percent of IoT devices.

IoT Devices Stay Inactive Until They Transmit Data

The company in November launched its 510 Series access points, and at the show here unveiled the 530 and 500 Series APs. They simplify network management by eliminating the need for IoT gateways through the integrated support for the various protocols. In addition, the support for WiFi 6 means faster and more reliable connectivity for IoT devices and well as better battery life. The protocol enables IoT devices to stay inactive until they need to transmit data.

Aruba last summer announced its SD-Branch offering, part of its Aruba Central cloud-based network management solution. It’s the company’s first steps into the fast-growing SD-WAN market, which has been growing over the past several years and includes such rivals as Cisco Systems and VMware. SD-WAN essentially offers a complement to Multi-Protocol Layer Switching (MPLS), enabling enterprises to use less expensive and less complex broadband or other transport modes to move data and applications between the branch and the cloud and data center.

However, SD-Branch expands beyond simply the transport mode to include the WAN and the LAN—from using contextual information about the devices and users to enhance the experience on the WAN to enabling automated policy enforcement. IDC’s Butler said extending the capabilities from the campus to include the WAN and LAN better addresses enterprises needs at the branch than simple SD-WAN solutions.

In addition, Aruba’s relatively late entrance into the SD-WAN market shouldn’t be a setback, he said. IDC expects the market to grow from $1.3 billion last year to $4.5 billion by 2022, so it’s still in its early stages.

MultiCare is a health-care company with eight hospitals throughout Washington and more than 18,000 employees. The organization has Aruba wireless networking throughout most of sites and began testing SD-Branch at some of them about three months ago, according to Jason Kulman, network services analyst for MultiCare.

Like most health-care organizations, MultiCare has a lot of connected medical devices that are critical to patient care that can’t go down, Kulman told eWEEK. In a typical networking environment, if there is problem with the internet service provider, network connectivity can be lost. SD-Branch protects against that by enabling traffic to move through another path, such as broadband.

In addition, SD-Branch gives MultiCare “the ability to offload the guest traffic off the WAN circuit and onto the broadband,” he said, which is good for both performance and security.