Aruba's top exec, large customers talk about Wi-Fi’s present and future at Atmosphere

Aruba moving to unify its WLAN offerings, using virtualization, microservices

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Aruba kicked off its annual Atmosphere conference on Tuesday in Nashville with a keynote from CTO Keerti Melkote that featured CTOs and CIOs from several of the company’s most prominent customers.

One of the key points made by Melkote, now the sole head honcho of the company following the departure of then-CEO Dominic Orr in January, was that the HPE-owned wireless equipment maker is working hard to unify Aruba’s offerings over the past year.

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Aruba OS, the company’s controller management software for wireless LANs, has been virtualized and can run largely anywhere, but Melkote said that there’s more to it than that.

“We have created a completely new way to scale,” he told the crowd. “Using cloud principles to create a horizontally scalable model by decomposing architecture into microservices and delivering that in a highly scalable manner.”

The idea, according to Melkote, is to create an ecosystem, using APIs and extensions and so on to enable users to employ some or all of the company’s offerings as seamlessly as possible.

Aruba customers have their say

Some customers, like TimeWarner CTO of enterprise infrastructure James Robertson, want to use Aruba to help provision his company’s forthcoming offices in the Hudson Yards development in New York.

Time Warner, CNN and HBO will all be anchor tenants of the 30 Hudson Yards building, and Robertson is responsible for making sure the whole place is ready to go from a technology standpoint.

And he’ll be working with the handicap of not having a dedicated data center in the building.

“For the most part, the idea is to disconnect things,” he said. “We don’t need to necessarily consider a wired infrastructure as a primary connectivity venue, [preferring] the flexibility of highly dense Wi-Fi infrastructure.”

That’s a big cost savings, according to Robertson, in terms of installation, power consumption and space used, thanks to both the wireless infrastructure and cloud services.

Other customers are simply using Aruba’s tech to modernize badly outdated infrastructure. Brian Doyle is the senior manager engineering for United Airlines, and he’s finishing up a large-scale upgrade of all the company’s wireless infrastructure.

Having replaced something like 1,300 access layer switches and 500 core switches over the past six months, Doyle told the crowd at Atmosphere that the upside has become immediately apparent.

“On the wireless side, we’re seeing huge [benefits] from standardization,” he said.

And it’s not just a question of smooth Wi-Fi connectivity in gate areas, according to Doyle. One of the biggest benefits the company has seen is in the area of wireless bag scanning.

“We’ve actually reduced our flight delays related to bag scanning – back in December, we were running triple digits,” he said, presumably speaking on a per-day basis. “As of Friday, we had four.”

United’s deployment will eventually scale to up to 11,000 access points, Doyle said.

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