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Tuesday, 29 March 2022 23:23

Aruba launching automated intelligent network deployment, configuration and protection, plus GPS-enabled Wi-Fi APs


Aruba, a division of HPE, has unveiled news of Aruba Central NetConductor to automate and simplify the creation, deployment, and management of wired, wireless, and WAN networks all from one place, as well as news about GPS-enabled Aruba WiFi access points to provide greater location capabilities.

Aruba South Pacific (ANZ) director Pat Devlin and Aruba category manager Darren Smith spoke to iTWire to explain what the news means.

In reality, while today's news offers amazing capabilities for enterprises of all sizes, Aruba has been building to this point for some years with its previous decision and work to relaunch its switching platform to use a single unified operating system end-to-end all the way from devices for small offices to data centres. This unified platform made Aruba the only networking equipment vendor with a single API-driven operating system over its entire spectrum.

Aruba Central NetConductor - which will be included in the Central subscription - now places all the device management - whether wired, wireless, or WAN - into one place, allowing administrators to configure all their hardware as if it was one single lump of infrastructure.

In fact, some of the enablement is based on the VX LAN standard and, Devlin states, could propagate to handle any VX LAN-compliant connected device, irrespective of it being an Aruba device or not.

While it sounds simple - a single pane to manage all your Aruba functionality in one place - Aruba has loaded features and functionality to streamline network administration processes and add smarts.

For example, the product can automate actions based on security insights received from something at the edge of the network like, say, a Palo Alto firewall. A firewall rule being triggered can enforce a policy in Aruba Central NetConductor.

Or, you might create policies so when a device joins your network Aruba Central NetConductor identifies and opens up ports as appropriate. It could be an IP camera, a smart lightbulb, or an end-user device. Whatever it is, NetConductor can identify the device, confirm it’s the regular type you use, and configure the device and firewalls so all you need to do is plug it in and let NetConductor handle the rest.

Or, perhaps your policy might be to quarantine a new network device so it cannot use the network until you’ve identified and categorised it. Or, perhaps you may allow it guest Internet access but not corporate network access to start but revoke even the guest access should a firewall or IDS identify it’s doing bad things.

In fact, the product comes with signatures for millions of devices from hardware vendors around the world so the platform can categorise new devices based on what it thinks, allowing you to review later and only need to act if you want to treat something as a special case.

There is a lot to like, and Devlin and Smith credit the achievement to Aruba's prior work in unifying its operating system, and to its DevOps culture and agility.

Additionally, Aruba has announced GPS capabilities being unlocked in its WiFi access points. Every day companies are installing Wi-Fi access points and struggle enough with channel management, let alone having to deal with installing client devices in proximity to an AP. Devlin explains network administrators and Aruba service and support teams alike are working to optimise configurations based on where the client says the physical location is. If it’s the wrong information, or devices move, it could well be wrong and provide a bad experience. In fact, Devlin says, some large companies with thousands upon thousands of access points have even lost track of where their assets are located.

Another problem is devices may be able to identify where they are in relation to a beacon, but that doesn’t identify where it really is. For instance, in a shopping centre, you might receive directions to the wrong store. Or a defibrillator might identify itself as being located outside the wrong operating theatre.

GPS location will resolve these and other concerns. It will provide a highly accurate reference point from which many other things can flow - tuning, asset data, site health, and anything based on location.

It's not simply a GPS antenna stuck into the AP, Devlin says, but a special version of their chip designed to get better location data over time using GPS data plus information from other devices and combining all this with location policies to share back out using OpenLocate.

Aruba has deliberately chosen an open protocol to help improve the community and enable other devices - from other vendors - to similarly benefit from OpenLocate data.

The tech does not require new hardware, Smith says. Aruba Wi-Fi 6/6E APs already have this tech on them and it will be only a software update for customers to take advantage of them, and both GPS- and non-GPS APs will benefit from the location data.

Aruba Central NetConductor services are available for early access now and will be generally available in July 2022. Central NetConductor services are part of Aruba Central, and are available with an Advanced license.

Aruba Wi-Fi 6/6E APs include self-location and are currently shipping, and GPS capabilities are included in existing Aruba Wi-Fi 6E APs and pricing.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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