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VMblog Expert Interview: Paul Kaspian Talks Network as a Service Adoption, Hybrid Workplaces, and Details Findings From Recent Aruba Global Survey


Businesses will experience profound changes as employees transition to hybrid work environments following COVID-19, in turn changing the way IT teams procure and consume networking solutions.  And according to a new global survey of 2,400 IT decision-makers (ITDMs) commissioned by Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, in response to the pandemic, IT leaders are now investing more in cloud-based and AI-powered networking technologies as business recovery plans take shape.

To learn more about these findings, VMblog spoke with industry expert, Paul Kaspian, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Hybrid Workplace Solutions at Aruba.

VMblog:  The survey found "38% globally will increase their investment in cloud-based networking."  How is COVID-19 accelerating this shift?

Paul Kaspian:  Adoption of cloud-based networking was already underway, but COVID-19 actually accelerated that shift further. At Aruba, we were seeing increasing demand from our customers for subscription-based products and services (Network as a Service/NaaS) and other SaaS models, even before the pandemic.

That shift has accelerated as IT leaders scramble to set up what we call "hybrid workplaces" for the long term. Flexibility is paramount. The new workplace is virtually anywhere, requiring IT teams to create new networking paradigms that are adaptable, that deliver global availability and scalability, but also enforce key security best practices.

VMblog:  You also found that 35% of ITDMs globally are planning to increase their investment in AI-based networking technologies. How can technologies like AI help organizations deal with some of the resource constraints due to COVID-19?  

Kaspian:  Paired with the shift to SaaS consumption models, IT leaders increasingly want to automate through better visibility and management, and this means adopting AI-based technologies for the network that will make their respective organizations more efficient and agile, especially in the face of uncertainty and changing requirements. That much is clear from the survey.

In practice, Aruba's AI-powered infrastructure has enabled our customers to optimize their respective work environments across over a half a million sites worldwide.

Meanwhile, in the traditional office, customers are starting to use Aruba's AI-powered contact and location tracing tools to make the return to the office or campus safer. Working with technology partners, these solutions use both WI-FI and Bluetooth connectivity that is built into Aruba access points and managed from a single pane of glass. This is also where customers can leverage cloud-based applications that are easy to activate and deploy.

VMblog:  Despite nearly three in four respondents saying their respective businesses were impacted by COVID-19, it seems ITDMs are forging ahead with some major projects. Where are you seeing the biggest shifts in how IT resources are allocated?  

Kaspian:  Enterprises want to extend their networks beyond the proverbial campus, branch or data center, but to literally anywhere employees work. Crucial to success is creating a long-term work-from-anywhere solution that delivers a secure, enterprise-like experience that also enhances efficiency, creativity, and productivity.

This includes providing customers with enterprise-class telework hardware coupled with plug-and-play installation, identity-based security, and cloud-native management for rapid, simple and scalable deployment. To make the hybrid workplace a reality, customers need secure remote access to business-critical resources, which is made possible by Aruba Remote Access Points (RAPs) and gateways, extending access to enterprise applications and services hosted on-premises or in the public cloud.

For seamless, secure access on the road, they also like the Aruba Virtual Intranet Access (VIA) VPN software client, providing secure connectivity to laptops, phones, and tablets. 

VMblog:  Do you think the pandemic will ultimately slow or accelerate the move to the edge? 

Kaspian:  Whether or not the pandemic is slowing or accelerating the move to the edge really depends on the industry and the state of the respective business. For brick-and-mortar retailers or restaurants, where edge networking can provide a ton of value, edge networking adoption has slowed due to the enormous economic strain the pandemic has placed on those industries.

For those businesses with greater resource flexibility, the move to the edge is accelerating, and in some cases spurred by the pandemic. Aruba is seeing strong interest in Aruba ESP (Edge Services Platform), the industry's first AI-powered, cloud-native platform designed to automate, unify and protect the edge. This platform can enable businesses to leverage contextual information and analytics related identity, location, security posture and applications, which is crucial to enabling the hybrid workplace and for managing complex tasks including contact tracing and physical distance monitoring.  

VMblog:  What role is Aruba ESP playing in creating the hybrid workplace?  What's possible now that wasn't before?

Kaspian:  Recent enhancements to Aruba ESP will enable customers to unify IoT, IT, and operational technology (OT) networks, empowering them to quickly adapt to changing environments and user requirements to create what we call a hyperaware operating environment.

In the physical workspace, Aruba access points and switches now serve as multi-protocol IoT/OT platforms that interface with Aruba's expanded technology partner ecosystem. Virtually every subsystem spanning machine inputs and outputs (I/O) on a manufacturing floor through multimedia devices in the boardroom can be accommodated - from social distance monitors to gunshot detectors, rotating equipment monitors to guest wayfinding.

Aruba ESP also utilizes a cloud architecture to ensure ultimate flexibility and scalability while offering a single pane of glass for wireless, wired and WAN infrastructure across campus, branch, remote worker, and data center locations. This unified operating model simplifies network management across any environment while featuring built-in zero trust security, meaning the network remains secure regardless of where employees or devices are connecting from.

VMblog:  Based on the findings, what are some key factors that ITDM's should be taking into consideration as we navigate the "new normal?"

Kaspian:  As I mentioned earlier, flexibility is king. Nobody knows exactly when the global pandemic will end, and the best defense is making the IT environment as flexible as possible, both in terms of how those services are consumed and how they are procured. The ability to scale up and scale down services to match the needs of the business is no longer a nice to have, it is a requirement to ensure business stakeholders can maintain productivity and efficiency without sacrificing security.

Similarly, increasing automation and doing more with less, are now table stakes. As you stated earlier, the survey found that three in four respondents said their businesses were negatively impacted by the pandemic, and yet many IT leaders are being asked to do more than ever to accommodate the necessity of a remote workforce. Automating where possible can help strapped IT leaders divert their respective teams to handle higher level, mission-critical tasks.

VMblog:  Does Aruba see the CapEx model for IT investment going extinct?  Is the march to subscription-based models an inevitability?  

Kaspian:  At this point, we don't see capital expenditure IT investments going extinct per se; for certain industries, businesses and service needs, that more traditional model can provide the most effective method for securing and consuming IT assets. However, we see the subscription model as the dominant method going forward, and the pandemic has reinforced that view. Again, it's all about flexibility.

Aruba, and more broadly, Hewett Packard Enterprise (HPE), are making significant investments in new platforms such as Aruba ESP and HPE GreenLake cloud services to make this a reality for our customers. The ability to pay for just what you use, to scale up and scale down services as business needs dictate, to simplify and centralize IT operations and even offload managing and monitoring, represents a powerful set of benefits and a level of flexibility not seen before.

VMblog:  How can readers get their hands on this information?  Is the report available for download?

Kaspian:  Yes. Anyone can download the full report entitled "Preparing for a post-pandemic workplace: how IT decision-makers are responding to COVID-19" here:



Published Friday, September 04, 2020 7:31 AM by David Marshall
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