Wireless seen as cutting edge of HPE Aruba’s future

With the promise of Private 5G, which is a new technology for Aruba, and Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7, wireless is likely to become a larger component of Aruba’s business.

Stuart Strickland, Wireless CTO and Fellow at Aruba

Wireless is just one component of Aruba’s business, along with their legacy wired business and developing SD-WAN/ SASE business. But it is well poised for taking advantage of opportunities in the market today. That’s the view of Stuart Strickland, Wireless CTO and Fellow at Aruba.

“I joined Aruba in 2015, and came from Qualcomm, where Aruba was a customer  of ours,” Strickland told ChannelBuzz. “As a result, I think of Aruba as a wireless company that did other things. It was particularly successful in education environments, and we developed a lot of mechanisms for handling that. Our  cellular technology developed in parallel with the enterprise tech and always held each other at arms’ length – until cellular came in to the enterprise.”

Everything in HPE that has wireless connectivity to the enterprise is Strickland’s responsibility.

“There are really four subareas,” he said. “They are standards, a lab that does performance and interoperability testing, and an area that covers regulatory and public policy issues which specializes in government regulations. These three groups all work together and use the findings of the lab for their work.”

The fourth sub-area is what Strickland termed the engine of innovation.

“The job here is to convince the other parts of the company that it is viable to commercialize the initiatives we propose,” he said. “We are helped by a deep relationship between the CTO and product line management, because we join them in going to market together a lot.”

Italian Private 5G vendor Athonet, which HPE has signed a deal to buy, although the deal has not yet closed, will drive Aruba’s presence in the Private 5G market.

“The regulators’ concern is that Athonet’s software is part of a lot of critical infrastructure, and they want to be sure that we will support these services,” Strickland said. “It is an enormous investment, but it is also a mature product. We interviewed many companies in this space since the middle of last summer before we decided on them.”

Strickland said Athonet has a fairly wide spectrum of customers.

“They have about 400 customers overall,” he stated. “Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris is a customer of theirs, as are organizations who run mines, public utilities, municipalities, public transportation systems and some public sector defense customers.”

This is not Aruba’s first experience with Private 5G, but it will be the first where they have the technology in house.

“We entered into an exclusive relationship with Celona about five years ago, designed specifically for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service spectrum in the U.S., and we brought that to customers,” Strickland said. “It is a new technology for Aruba as a company.”

Strickland acknowledged there have been limitations on the adoption of Private 5G technology.

“There has been a lot of historical expectation that private cellular would have hockey stick growth, but we don’t really think that will materialize,” he said. “It won’t be as dramatic. There are real problems many customers have that need this, so it’s not a small niche. It’s likely a majority. But whether they adopt it or not depends on the state of their problems, the cost and how easy we can make it for them.”

Wi-Fi 6 also holds excellent prospects for Aruba, although WiFi 7 is trickier, Strickland indicated

“Wi-Fi 7 has returned to be more consumer-focused, and it can be difficult to get this through proposals for enterprise customers,” he said. “There are real enterprise gaps not being addressed by Wi-Fi 7, and I think that we need to offer it in tandem with enterprise products that do address these issues. Wi-Fi 6 had a good adoption rate, and we think because Wi-Fi 6E will have a dramatic impact on the performance of networks, customers will now be able to use much larger channels to serve guests.”

Strickland said that self-locating capability in Aruba Access Points will, finally, soon be available.

“We announced this self-locating capability in AP last year, but it has taken us longer to bring it to market than we originally thought,” he said. It will provide the ability to share that location with client devices without having to do a lot of extra work, and will open up a lot of additional opportunities.”