HP, Aruba Changing Up Enterprise Mobility
The merged entity stands to gain not only in enterprise wireless networking but unified communications as well.
Official word hit the street yesterday that HP is acquiring Aruba Networks, setting off a flurry of speculation on how the move might ultimately benefit each company's enterprise mobility story.
The underlying hope seems to be that HP not botch up the good thing Aruba has had going since it launched to provide enterprise wireless LAN technology in 2002. Aruba has earned kudos for the strength of its technology; in late December 2014, for example, it earned a coveted "leaders" spot in Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Network Access Control.
HP has its own WLAN portfolio, but not quite the strength of reputation as Aruba, as No Jitter blogger Michael Finneran, president of mobility consultancy dBrn Associates, noted. "While both HP and Aruba have well regarded WLAN product lines, HP has had a tough time getting its foot in the door," he told me. "It will be interesting to see what happens to HP's own WLAN product line going forward, but I think this is good news for both companies."
What might result, suggests enterprise mobility strategist Maribel Lopez, is an improved ability to deliver contextual awareness. In a Forbes post yesterday, Lopez, who is founder of Lopez Research, wrote:
"The future of enterprise networking is delivering personalized and customized experiences to a company's customers and employees. We're moving into a world where people expect hyper-local services that provide the right information based on the context of where you're standing. We can easily see how this is applicable in retail, but it also makes sense more broadly for hospitals, factories, stadiums, and schools. This is the future of networking that HP wants to capture through its acquisition of Aruba Networks."
Aruba itself gained such expertise through an acquisition of its own, that of Meridian Apps in 2013 for a move into "mobile engagement." In announcing the acquisition, Aruba said the goal was to provide "location-based services by combining its unique, network-based contextual information about users, devices and applications with Meridian's Wi-Fi based wayfinding solution for smartphones and tablets."
Also worth keeping on eye on is where this acquisition leads on the unified communications front. As Finneran noted, "both HP and Aruba are well positioned with Microsoft's Lync, and I think that will be a big plus for them going forward."
Last summer Aruba announced that it had received certification for its 802.11ac access points under the Microsoft Lync Server Wi-Fi qualification program -- the first Wi-Fi vendor to do so, as noted in the No Jitter post, "Aruba Networks Hopes to Make Rain with Microsoft Lync." The qualification, as analyst Zeus Kerravala, founder of ZK Research, noted in that piece, "ensures that the configuration of the wireless networks adheres to the rigid guidelines laid out by Microsoft to ensure quality voice and video transmission."
For its part, HP offers a portfolio of UC solutions for Lync. Furthermore, HP was the first networking vendor to use software-defined network (SDN) APIs to integrate the Lync UC server with networking gear, an implementation that echoes the relationship of the Lync server to the Aruba WLAN controller -- making the two companies' Lync stories complementary on both a business and technology level. The idea with both HP and Aruba is that the Lync server is able to tell the "smart" network element (Aruba WLAN or HP SDN controller) how many resources are required to properly handle the amount and nature of real-time traffic that the Lync server is processing.
For those worried about a dilution of Aruba's stature in enterprise mobility once the acquisition is complete, the good news is that Aruba executives Dominic Orr, CEO, and Keerti Melkote, chief strategy and technology officer, will lead the newly combined organization. They'll report to Antonio Neri, head of the HP Enterprise Group, according to the HP press announcement. "Together HP and Aruba will deliver next-generation converged campus solutions, leveraging the strong Aruba brand," HP said.
As disclosed yesterday, HP will pay $24.67 per share in cash for Aruba, which amounts to roughly $3 billion, or $2.7 billion net of cash and debt. Both boards of directors have approved the deal, which is expected to close in the second-half of HP's fiscal year 2015.
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