Security, AI, and network-as-a-service (NaaS) were top of mind for Aruba Networks execs at their Atmosphere customer conference this week.

“Ten years ago for most network operators their main job was making sure connectivity was reliable and security was someone else’s problem. It was outside their perimeter,” said David Hughes, senior vice president, chief product and technology officer with Aruba. “But today all perimeters have dissolved and the network has expanded,” .

“The networking team is now responsible for making sure connectivity is secure from the start. Bolting it on somewhere won’t cut it anymore, it needs to be built into the network,” Hughes said.

Aruba has made a number of moves to further its integrated security/networking strategy including its recent buy and integration of Axis Security and its security service edge (SSE) platform with Aruba’s SD-WAN and SASE offerings.

This so-called single vendor SASE offering brings networking and security technologies all together gives businesses  the role-based control  they need to protect people everywhere, accessing applications anywhere, Hughes said.

The data center is another area Aruba is focusing on with integrated security with its  CX 10000 switch, a top-of-rack, L2/3 data-center box. It includes an integrated programmable data processing unit (DPU) support that supports L4-L7 stateful software services including firewall, DDoS, encryption, network address translation, load balancing, network telemetry, and automation that can be applied to protect widely distributed workloads.

“In the data center, where operators used to only be worried about north-south traffic and having a firewall to control what comes in and out of the data center has changed,” Hughes said. “Organizations want to implement much tighter control and segmentation for east-west traffic. So if you have a bunch of containers, you really want them to have very limited access to data-center resources. Being able to segment and secure that traffic is a big requirement and that is efficiently handled by the 10k.”

AI was also a big part of the discussion at Atmosphere in part because the vendor enhanced its Aruba Central management platform with AIops and other new visibility features.

For example, the company has added a more visual interface and intelligent-assurance indicators that alert admins of network and device problems in real time. The metrics are derived from correlating access, LAN, servicies, WAN, and application data to improve visibility and reporting capabilities.

New AIops features that help operators more quickly discover problems and fix them. “With the amount of data we can now gather from the network and user experience we can better use it to feed AI models and to help customers identify clusters of error signs and in some cases, the these things can be insights or suggestions to the operator of how things could adapt or change to get better outcomes,” Hughes said.  “What we are seeing is that customers are getting more comfortable with the system delivering automated remediation or closed-loop operations.”

“What Aruba has is a ton of data scientists that continually working with the data that the system collects and try to figure out what insights can we automate better? How do we help our customers find the needle in the haystack?,” Hughes said.

Hughes also talked about generative AI,  ChatGBT. 

“Obviously, that kind of natural language processing is something that matters. So we use natural language processing in our kind of main query bar, so when someone wants to do something they can ask in plain English,” Hughes said “Natural language interfaces are going to become more and more prevalent. And the ability to process things like support cases and reducing trouble tickets, and feeding into those natural language interfaces, that’s also going to be something of a game changer going forwards.”

Another area Hughes expects will grow substantially this year is the use of network-as-a-service (NaaS). In a blog earlier this year Hughes wrote that by the end of 2023, he expected that 20% of organizations will have adopted a NaaS strategy. That would enable IT to accelerate network modernization yet stay within budget, IT resources, and schedule constraints, Hughes wrote.

At Atmosphere, Aruba rolled out Agile NaaS, aimed at streamlining the process of choosing network infrastructure components available through the service to better fit customers’ business needs. The idea with Agile NaaS is to include design and development tools customers can use to plan a network project up front and then offers a range of acquisition, deployment, and management models to build it out.

“What we’ve heard from customers about NaaS  is they want flexibility and agility, and it’s not one size fits all,” Hughes said. “And so you have situations like someone that wants to pay all upfront, but they’d love someone to manage it for them or someone that wants to pay over time, but they want to control everything very tightly themselves.” 

“What we do is provide a toolkit for our customers and our partners so that they can choose which pieces they want to kind of build their NaaS service,” Hughes said.


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