Aruba brings its first 802.11ax access points and new switches to their Edge portfolio

Advances from both the 802.11ax technology and Aruba's own IP add new power management and IoT capabilities to the new APs.

NetInsight Green AP

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, has announced their first 802.11ax [Wi-Fi 6] IoT-ready access points and complementary access switches for their Edge portfolio. They add new capabilities from the 802.11ax standard, such as the ability to put access points [APs] into sleep mode to save power in low use times. Aruba is also the first Wi-Fi vendor to integrate Bluetooth 5 [BLE 5] into its access points, combined with an integrated Zigbee radio, in order to open up new Internet of Things use cases.

The new products include the Aruba 510 Series APs, a new series of 802.11ax, IoT-ready APs, with advanced security, AI-powered RF optimization, intelligent power monitoring, and integrated Zigbee and BLE 5 radios. In addition Green AP is a new feature of NetInsight, Aruba’s AI-powered analytics and assurance solution, which dynamically powers down APs when user devices are not present. Finally, Aruba introduced new Aruba 2930M access switches, with support for the 802.3bt standard to provide the higher power PoE of up to 60 watts per port rather than 30 that some high-end 802.11ax access points demand

“The 802.11ax standard was just ratified, and while some smaller companies have announced product, we are the first of the very large providers to do so,” said Trent Fierro, director of software solutions marketing for Aruba. “Customers who have been looking to move from 802.11n and who had been thinking of moving to Wave 2 of 802.11ac should move to this instead. If they use applications that have multi-user capacity, they will see a benefit now. They will see a major improvement when the new ax-enabled clients come out, around mid-2019. So while they will see a little improvement in the short term, when those 802.11ax clients come out next year, they will see way better performance.”

Does that mean that customers are paying primarily for future-proofing? To some degree, Fierro said, but he stressed that in many use cases, upgrading to 802.11ax makes sense.

“Its about $100 more than a comparable 802.11ac standard AP, but for that, you get a lot more functionality, the added security, and the Zigbee radio,” he said. “If there is budget, there’s no reason to stay with ac. The 802.11ax APs support more video use and more voice application use, and is better suited to multi-user and smart IOT uses.”

The Aruba 515 AP

The Aruba 510 series are not the first 802.11ax APs on the market, but they do offer several firsts. The new APs are the first to be Wi-Fi Alliance  certified for the new WPA3 and Enhanced Open security standards, which provide stronger encryption and simpler IoT security configuration. They are also the first 802.11ax APs with integrated support for Zigbee and BLE 5, expanding connectivity options because of the presence of the three wireless technologies, and making it unnecessary to operate a separate Zigbee network.

“Any other vendor delivering 802.11ax APs will benefit from the 802.11ax functionality, so we added the new security strength with WPA3 support, and the addition of Zigbee to the radio that supports BLE 5,” Fierro said. “Now with the addition of Zigbee it opens doors to a lot of vendors that use thermostats and other IoT devices that use Zigbee and not Bluetooth. With this, it’s just one hardware that has to be managed and deployed for IoT.”

“Zigbee is used for a large number of IoT use cases,” said Newsha Sharifzadeh, Global Product Marketing Manager at Aruba.  “The IOT connected smart door locks in hotels – Zigbee lets you manage that. The digital shelf labels that are now in some retail outlets, they use Zigbee for that.”

The Aruba 510 series is also the first to leverage power management capabilities in the 802.11ax standard with their own IP to enable power management that reduces consumption.

“With 802.11ax, the more high-performing apps will possibly use a little more power,” Fierro said. “The 802.11ax standard introduces a new capability of allowing you to put things into a sleep mode. Green AP, which is a new part of Aruba NetInsight, can use machine learning to see how the network is being used. What the machine learning can do is designate what apps can be put into a sleep mode. If you put 75 per cent of the APs in sleep mode, you use 72 per cent less power. Large public venues like airports or stadiums can have power usage reduced significantly in off hours. I don’t think anyone else is doing anything like this, because while the ax standard has the sleep mode capability, you need the machine learning capability to see how the network is being used, and manage it like we do here.”

In addition, Aruba’s Intelligent Power Monitoring, a feature in the AOS 8 operating system, actively measures the power utilization of an AP and dynamically adapts to the available power resources. IT organizations can define and prioritize which capabilities to disable when an AP is operating over its power budget.

“Intelligent Power Monitoring also allows the intelligent AP to be used in a switching environment that doesn’t support Bluetooth, to increase resources if more than 30 watts of power are needed,” Fierro said. “It would come into play where a customer doesn’t yet have the budget to support Bluetooth-capable switches.”

The new Aruba 2930M access switches are 802.11ax-ready, and support the 802.3bt standard to provide higher power PoE, with faster port speeds and up to 60 watts per port.

“The new 2930M switches have two different versions, with 24 and 48 ports,” Fierro said. “The additional PoE per port is needed because we are increasingly seeing in the market surveillance cameras and other devices that require more than 30 watts of power, and you can support those devices with these switches.

The Aruba 510 Series APs are available now, beginning at a list price of $USD 1,095. The Aruba 2930M access switch is available now, starting at $USD 10,799 list. The new version of NetInsight with Green AP will be available in the first quarter of 2019, with one-year subscriptions beginning at $USD 50 per year.