Aruba Puts Branch Office Networks In The Cloud

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

No more network boxes in the branch office, says Aruba

Wireless network maker Aruba Networks has announced a cloud-based system which offers networks for branch offices without a stack of network boxes and appliances.

The Aruba Virtual Branch Network (VBN) 2.0 product is intended to provide easy branch office networks for offices with up to 150 people. “There’s no router, no QoS box, no DHCP server, no firewall,” said Roger Hockaday, Aruba’s director of marketing. Companies that have to provision and support networks for a lot of branch offices normally have big expenses and management costs, he added. “You just plug in a remote access point, and enter a URL.”

Cloud services are “cheaper than Cisco’s ISR”

The product marks the company’s move to become a “distributed network company” instead of just a wireless LAN maker. It updates an earlier VBN product launched in 2009, adding network services to Aruba’s remote access point (RAP) to build a solution which, Hockaday reckons, will compete with Cisco’s ISR branch router at a fraction of the cost – potentially reducing capital expenditures by up to 60 percent and operating expenses by up to 75 percent.

Aruba’s RAP products cost from £100 to £500, and are now combined with network acceleration services and cloud-based firewall services, both of which are provided by third parties which Aruba is not able to name. The acceleration services speed up HTTP, CIFS Windows file-sharing and MAPI Exchange email, traffic, hosting it on a server in the user’s own data centre, and cost a £300 one-off payment per branch office.

Aruba has a deal with a content delivery network (CDN) to speed up the delivery of traffic using local caches. It is also offering a security service, which costs from £30 per-user-per-year for anti-virus and malware detection, up to a premium bundle which includes bandwidth management for different applications, and monitors the information in outbound emails for compliance with governance regulations such as HIPAA and Sarbanes Oxley.

The VBN product also includes a virtual intranet access (VIA) client, intended for road warriors, which manages the transition between virtual private networks and corporate LANs, when a user changes location, so his or her laptop is always on the corporate network no matter where it is – and resources are not wasted by keeping VPN clients continually running even if the user is in the office, said Hockaday: “Instead of being outside tunneling in, you are on the network all the time.”

“Aruba is no longer just a wireless LAN company,” said Hockaday.  “We address the distributed enterprise network. We don’t have a legacy burden of port-based networking sales,” he said, comparing his company’s VBN once more with Cisco.

Other wireless LAN vendors have moved towards cloud provision, including Aerohive, which offers a more restricted system than Aruba, to manage wireless LANs remotely. Also in wireless networks, this week also sees a stock market flotation for Aruba’s rival, Meru, hoping for a valuation of around $86 million on the New York Stock Exchange.