Aruba Adds Cloud Services to Branch Networking Solution

Aruba Networks Inc. this week updated its Virtual Branch Networking solution by migrating services like application acceleration and content security into the cloud – a change the company said will reduce capex and opex for branch offices by eliminating the need for dedicated branch appliances/routers.

VBN 2.0, as the new solution is called, decreases capex by up to 60 percent and operating expenses by up to 75 percent, according to Aruba’s estimates.

“Branch routers as we’ve known them are going to become obsolete,” said Aruba’s COO Hitesh Sheth in a press statement. “Traditional branch routers weren’t designed with mobility and broadband in mind, and their high cost and complexity make them impractical for addressing the needs of today’s distributed enterprise. The availability of broadband connections, affordable mobile computing devices, and cloud services has enabled Aruba to completely redefine branch networking. Our new VBN 2.0 solution leverages the cloud to deliver a true campus-like user experience to remote users with a simpler architecture that is less expensive to deploy and maintain.”

In an interview with PHONE+, analyst Paul DeBeasi, vice president and research director for Gartner Inc., stops short of proclaiming VBN, which was first introduced in May 2009, as a disruptive or revolutionary approach. However, he does give credit where it’s due, noting the $99 price point for its cigarette-pack-sized Remote Access Points (RAPs) was a significant cost reduction. And, he said, the solution makes it easy for enterprises to administer remote users just as they would any APs in their networks. From the user point of view, the small size enables a remote worker to travel and have the connection work the same way in the office and on the road. As for moving some capabilities to the cloud, DeBeasi calls it a “refinement” and agreed with Sheth that it makes the operation of the branch network easier.

Yankee Group Senior Analyst Phil Hochmuth said that moving functionality into the cloud and away from the “branch-in-a-box” appliance is “part of a natural progression down the cost curve” while enabling distributed companies to maintain enterprise-class capabilities across their organizations.

Without additional hardware or software in the branch office, VBN 2.0 adds several capabilities, including an Application Acceleration Service (AAS) to speed application performance by 20x; a Content Delivery Network (CDN) subscription-based file caching service, and a Content Security Service (CSS) that provides antivirus/antispam protection, real-time content filtering and data leakage prevention.

Mike Tennefoss, Aruba’s head of strategic marketing, told PHONE+ traditional WAN acceleration solutions are pricey for the market Aruba is targeting – distributed enterprises with teleworkers or branch offices of one or a few employees. Moving it to the cloud and pairing it with a CDN seeks to achieve the same result without the need for a hardware appliance. Tennefoss said the company has several partners for the CDN service, but declined to name them.

Also as part of the VBN 2.0 solution, Aruba is introducing a Virtual Intranet Access (VIA) client. VIA provide road warriors and other mobile workers with Windows-based laptops, netbooks and PCs with secure access to the corporate network without separate, dedicated VPN infrastructure. VIA shares the same data center controllers as RAPs but users no longer have to take the RAPs along. A primary advantage of VIA, Tennefoss said is that it is connection agnostic. It automatically tries various connection options – IPsec, SSL, 3G, Ethernet, etc. — without the user’s knowledge or intervention.

“The nice thing is that it allows for a common infrastructure for remote access, including the road warrior,” he said.

Volume list price for Content Security Service is $45 per user per year in volume; Application Acceleration Server is $255 per RAP; and VIA is included in the controller price

VBN 2.0 will be shipping at the end of April 2010.


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