Aruba looks to HP channel to grow SMB business

Aruba Instant APLAS VEGAS – For Aruba Networks, this week is its first big appearance as an HP company, and the recent HP acquisition made its presence felt with Aruba CEO and new HP networking boss Dominic Orr delivering a high-octane presentation in the Tuesday afternoon opening keynote.

But for the enterprise WiFi company, its biggest goal at the event is to connect with the broader base of HP customers to which it hopes to market now that the merger is complete. And to the partners that it believes will help it explore new opportunities.

Aruba has always had a channel focus, and Greg Murphy, the company’s vice president of business operations, credits a loyal channel with having a major role in Aruba’s rise. The company’s channel, like the company itself, has largely been enterprise-focused.

“They have highly-skilled, highly trained engineers who understand mobility and security, and understand how to implement in very complex environments,” he said of the company’s channel.

But like the company itself, the company’s historical channel partners don’t have much of a background in the SMB market. That hasn’t been an issue, except for the company’s development of Aruba Instant, an SMB-friendly version of its enterprise WiFi offerings. Ash Chowdappa, vice president of product management, described Instant as the same enterprise functionality as the company’s main line of products, but with a more SMB-friendly interface.

“For too long, it’s been a tradeoff of features and performance versus simplicity for SMBs,” Murphy said of the guiding concepts behind Instant. “Those two things shouldn’t be opposing principles.”

But with a company that primarily speaks enterprise, and a channel that primarily speaks enterprise, has Instant been able to live up to the market opportunity for the product? Perhaps not, but now that it’s part of HP, the company sees that changing.

“We see a huge opportunity with that HP networking channel that’s incredibly focused on SMB. We really want to pull that through the HP channel and reach a customer base we have not been able to reach as an enterprise organization,” Murphy said.

With the merger complete and the work to create and integrated HP networking business well under way, HP networking partners should probably expect to be hearing a lot more from the new acquisition.

Although Aruba is retaining status as a separate company and brand with the “an HP company” tagline added, Murphy stressed that the newly-combined organization is looking at the market as one networking organization, with a common strategy and approach.

“We’re two weeks into it, and just working on getting the product groups together, but we’ll seek to leverage the best of both portfolios and bring them together as one networking business unit,” he said.

And while much of the focus may be on opening up the SMB-focused Instant products to HP’s massive SMB channel community, Murphy said there would also be opportunities for HP’s enterprise-focused networking partners to get familiar with its offerings too.

“We’re inviting HP partners in, but we expect them to go through the same certifications and have the same capabilities and skills [as existing Aruba partners] to support our enterprise customers,” he said.