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March 03, 2015

Aruba Introduces All-in-One Cloud Services Controllers for Branch Offices

If you are a multi-location enterprise of any size, one of the more vexing challenges over the years has been how to keep your branches, literally and figuratively like the old 1960s saying, “tuned-in and turned on.” There now in fact are three “Ss” that should be addendums to that phrase— secure, synchronized/controllable and survivable.  The issues IT administrators have had to deal with abound starting with where to begin when thinking about upgrading the branch offices to next generation capabilities.  Just for example, which boxes to replace, when, where, why, how and at what cost?  Will they be optimized for a cloud-based, wireless-enabled, security-conscious world?  Is there a path architecturally to assure future readiness does not become a pain point?

One place they may wish to cast their attention is Aruba Networks who has introduced a rather novel all-in-one solution to address all of those questions above with its new Aruba 7000 series Cloud Services Controllers, which collapses the complicated patchwork of branch appliances and access servers into a single, compact cloud services platform.  

A look under the hood of the Aruba7000 series Cloud Services Controllers

When Aruba says all-in-one, they have a good point.  The solution highlights as cited by Aruba include:

1.Zero-Touch Provisioning – Eliminates the time, cost and complexity of lighting-up branch office networks.

2.Triple the Resiliency – Supports two Ethernet broadband WAN connections and a 3G/4G LTE cellular back-up link for assured business continuity in virtually all conditions. Branches that use certificate-based 802.1X RADIUS with EAP-TLS get uninterrupted service even if RADIUS servers are unreachable.

3.Programmable Policy Enforcement Firewall – Delivers context-aware control to a variety of branch networking requirements, namely:

  • Web Content Filtering – Provides Web content filtering to create contextual policies based on web site reputation.
  • Microsoft Lync Mobile Unified Communications – Automatically integrates with Lync Server 2013 SDN API and fingerprints hosted Lync Online traffic for a better user experience across the WAN.
  • Integration with Palo Alto Networks Firewalls – Automatically extends threat protection to every branch, for mobile devices and users per context, with no additional hardware or software.
  • Performance Gains for Cloud-based Applications – WAN optimization and application visibility and control with AppRF technology improve the performance of business-critical apps in the cloud.
  • Advanced Routing – Implements context-based routing across dual Ethernet WAN and LTE WAN links to preserve bandwidth for prioritized, business-critical traffic.

As Christian Gilby, Product Marketing Leader: Mobility, UC and Wireless at Aruba pointed out to me the Aruba 7000 series Cloud Services Controllers, “When we say we are eliminating the time, cost and complexity of managing branch offices multiple point solutions we have seen as much as a 48 percent reduction in cost per site. Plus, we are enabling businesses to get more from their existing cloud-based unified communication and firewall investments through our integration with Microsoft Lync and Palo Alto Networks, and doing so at very competitive prices.”

In fact, the Microsoft Lync integration is worth a look. 

Source: Aruba Networks

“Reliably extending Lync unified communications to branch offices requires both applying Quality of Service to latency-sensitive voice and video calls, as well as giving IT end-to-end visibility into Lync services for diagnostics and troubleshooting purposes,” said Giovanni Mezgec, general manager, Lync/Skype for Business, Microsoft. “Aruba’s Wi-Fi, switching, and SDN API solutions are Lync qualified, making them ideal for supporting hosted, on-premises, Lync Online, and Office 365 applications.”

“With Aruba’s Cloud Services Controller, customers that have already invested in Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewalls and GlobalProtect can now extend their security policies to every single branch location without additional complexity,” said Chad Kinzelberg, senior vice president of business and corporate development, Palo Alto Networks. “Aruba’s integration with Palo Alto Networks extends safe application enablement and threat prevention to branches.”

In regard to the Microsoft Lync integration, it should be noted that having the QoS is becoming more and more important as the virtualization of work means connecting customers to the right resource very often means somebody in the branch, and that user experience needs to meet or exceed expectations.   

2015 is shaping up as the year of SIMPLICITY, where complexity in every aspect of IT is the enemy. And, this is not just about ease-of-use and operation but also things like versatility and giving IT the visibility and tools they need to implement and control enterprise policies and rules, optimize resource usage and mitigate risks.

It is also about business continuity.  Indeed, a big if not the big use case, which for anyone who has suffered through a major natural disaster such as Hurricane Sandy (which I had the displeasure of experiencing) is disaster recovery. Being able to leverage seamlessly wired and wireless connectivity is important on a variety of levels too numerous to list. 

As part of the announcement, Aruba got an endorsement from The Ensign Group, Inc., which provides a broad spectrum of skilled nursing and assisted living services, physical, occupational and speech therapies, home health and hospice services, and urgent care services across 11 states and more than 180 locations.

“Historically, it’s been very complicated and expensive to provide network services and remain HIPAA-compliant at our 180 plus locations,” said Ryan Rushton, vice president of Information Technology, Ensign Services. "Aruba’s cloud services solution now gives us a huge advantage at our various facilities,” Rushton added. “Policy-based routing across dual WAN links, plug-and-play gigabit Wi-Fi, and many other services are all rolled up in one compact controller that automatically configures itself. Aruba has redefined what it means to have enterprise-class solutions in all our locations.”

Mark Lussier, Special Projects Manager, Retail Applications, Home Hardware Stores Limited., Canada’s largest Dealer-owned hardware, lumber, building materials and furniture cooperative, also commented on the value of the 7000 saying, “Collapsing a large number of networking appliances into one zero-configuration cloud services controller offers a tremendous cost savings. Aruba’s new branch solution gives us more resilient WAN performance, stronger cloud security services, and the high-performance enterprise Wi-Fi without sending an IT engineer to every location.” 

The Aruba 7000 Series Cloud Services Controller hardware is available immediately with all the services listed being delivered in the second quarter of 2015. Pricing starts at $1,495 U.S. list.

Branch offices have typically been considered a technology backwater in many enterprises because of the difficulties and costs of keeping them current.  In a virtualized world, both in terms of ICT resources and the nature of where and how work is performed, having optimized, reliable, available, high-performance and secure connectivity is not a nicety any more. It has become a competitive and operational necessity which is a huge reason why branch offices are now the subject of so much well-deserved attention.  

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