HPE enhances SASE offering with cloud security through acquisition of Axis Security platform

The acquisition will let HPE rejig their Aruba SASE offering so that all the components are made by HPE, instead of several of them coming from strategic partnerships, which is the case now.

Jon Green, Aruba’s Chief Security Officer

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has announced  its entry into a definitive agreement to acquire Axis Security, a SASE security provider based in Israel with U.S. offices in San Mateo CA. Axis started out with a strong focus on Zero Trust, but in the last year has expanded that to cover other SASE components. HPE has been selling SASE, but their own SASE technology was really limited to SD-WAN and firewall, with the other components coming through strategic partnerships. The acquisition of Axis will allow the creation of a unified SASE solution, which uses all HPE technology, and which will be sold on the GreenLake program as an Aruba offering. The Axis Atom SASE platform will also continue to be sold as a separate offering. The deal is expected to close in HPE’s 2023 Q2, which ends April 30.

Axis Security came out of stealth in March of 2020, and at that time they were basically a Zero Trust Network Access [ZTNA] provider, which provided  cloud-native private application access, and in the long run saw themselves as a VPN replacement. When HPE was looking at that time for an acquisition that would deepen their SASE capabilities, they thought that Axis was too narrow for their purposes.

“They have changed a lot in the last year – they were purely focused on private applications then,” said Jon Green, Aruba’s CSO. “We had moved on from that. We knew the ZTNA place was where we wanted to be, but if you are putting a proxy through the cloud, theres a lot more that you can do with that. So we passed on them and their direct competitors at that point. They remained in the weeds, however, and in the last year and a half we found that they had formed the same impression of the market as we had. In that year and a half they had moved beyond ZTNA to add things like CASB and SWG [Secure Web Access Gateway].

These would fill in multiple gaps in HPE’s own elements of its SASE solution, which Aruba was already selling

“What we were offering was before was SD-WAN and firewall and the ability to partner with others,” Green said. “We had a lot of technical integrations with companies like Zscaler and Netskope.”

Some HPE competitors also have full SASE solution sets, but Green thinks that both HPE and Aruba being strong in the networking space provides a competitive edge.

“Our starting point was from a networking perspective,” he said. “It’s easier to add security to networking than to do the reverse. In addition, the Axis ZTNA and SWG solutions are basically the same. Others have both solutions, but are technologically separate, so we are cleaner on that front.”

HPE will package the Axis technology with their own on their GreenLake platform after the deal closes, although exactly how has not yet been decided.

“It remains to be determined,” he said. “We know it will fit well in multiple ways, and there are additional ways of deploying beyond what Axis is doing today. Silver Peak [HPE’s SD-WAN] is a logical connection for standard packaging, because it is subscription based, so they are well aligned. But I don’t really know that we have thought that far ahead yet.”

The connection with SD-WAN is strong enough that at the start, HPE will be looking to their SD-WAN channel to sell the Axis technology.

“Axis had a channel strategy, but like with many startups transitioning from an initial direct model, it was very broad, because they were looking for as many routes to market as possible, Green said. “We will be focusing on our SD-WAN channel for this product because they are so complementary. Partners in this space will have more to sell and will be able to do more bundling. It also simplifies things for channel partners because they will have fewer vendors to deal with for a SASE solution.”

Assuming that the transaction closes by the end of HPE’s Q2 fiscal year, HPE will integrate Axis Security’s solutions with its own edge-to-cloud security solutions and plans to make them available to customers in the third quarter of the HPE 2023 fiscal year.