In Case You Weren’t Aware…..
HP has had some issues over the past several years. Not so much issues with their technology, which has always been good, but more so with execution. The latest attempt to right the ship has been to split the company into two distinct entities. Trim the fat off of the corporate monster so to speak. Or, maybe a better way to put it is that HP wants to become less of an “all things to all customers” type of company, and more of a “some things to some customers” type of company. Some customers will be served by one of the two HP companies, and some customers will be served by the other, or both. This allows more focus in certain areas, and focus is never a bad thing.
Why Does It Matter If HP Buys Aruba?
Although this is all speculation, allow me to continue down this road of “speculation”. I realize that neither HP nor Aruba have confirmed any of this. This is probably someone telling someone else something they weren’t supposed to tell. That person tells someone else, and next thing you know, it ends up as an article on a finance site. We all tweet about it and fuel the frenzy, along with the investors who look at balance sheets and run up the stock price of Aruba. By the time it is all over, people will form opinions based on a mix of facts and rumors and one side will have you believe the CEO’s of both companies drown kittens in their spare time. Or, those in favor will have you believe that God almighty came down from heaven and helped to broker this deal. Hopefully, we all end up somewhere in the middle.
To answer the question of why it matters, I have to look at it from differing points of view. The first is that of a shrewd business person. The second is that of a technical person who likes the world of technology, and especially Wi-Fi. These are MY views and mine alone. As always, I could completely misrepresent each position and could be completely wrong. I could also be right. Time will tell, and the Internet never forgets, thanks to archives.
Money. That’s it. Spare me the idealism and desire to do good for the world one widget at a time. Profit-based companies exist to return value to their shareholders, be they public or private. Jobs and philanthropy are a secondary benefit. If you are public, there are a lot of people in expensive suits poring over your books and demanding answers to why you came in at 1 cent below expectations for the quarter. Business is war, make no mistake. Pretty it up with other terms, but the goal is always market domination because that returns the most bang for the buck. Why start a profit-based business if you don’t think you have what it takes to succeed? Nobody wants to work into their 80’s just to pay the rent. We all want to retire and enjoy the fruits of our labor in our twilight years.
If, and this is still an “if”, Aruba sells to HP, it is for money. Aruba’s shareholders, and I am one of them, get paid. HP gets a good company with good technology, and thus, they get paid as well. The Aruba portfolio and client list will strengthen HP in the wireless arena. They are already selling Aruba wireless gear today, so it isn’t like Aruba is completely foreign to HP. Of course, so is Dell. Aruba also has semi-partnerships with Brocade and Juniper. As my friend Tom points out:
— Tom Hollingsworth (@networkingnerd) February 26, 2015
From a business perspective, this means that HP can compete a LOT more with Cisco, who teeters around the 50% market share in regards to wireless. If HP can buy Aruba at a decent price, I would say the business folks would be okay with that. Don’t ask me what a decent price is, but my guess is somewhere north of 2 billion USD.
Aruba has good wireless technology. Ignore the silly marketing videos from Aruba and Cisco where they are smashing and drowning access points, and consider that if Aruba’s technology didn’t work, they wouldn’t be the number two player in the enterprise market. There isn’t enough lipstick in the world to put on a pig to give it that kind of market share.
If the technology is good, and HP buys Aruba, what is the problem? I submit to you that it is going to be a problem of execution on HP’s side. Take a look at what they are doing in wireless. Does anything stand out? How many HP wireless customers do you know of? I know they are out there. That much is true. What I can tell you is that in the 3 and a half years I have been with my current employer, I have come across one HP wireless install. It was for a school system in the area I live in(Nashville,TN). Just one. I realize that I have not been to every company in the world. I have not seen the networks running thousands of HP wireless access points. I have seen plenty of Aruba and Cisco wireless installs. I’ve come across Aerohive, Ruckus, Ubiquiti, Meraki(pre-Cisco), Extreme, and even SonicWall. In the wild, I have found AirTight, Meru, and Brocade(Motorola), but never HP.
Perhaps I am looking in the wrong places though. Your mileage may vary. Perhaps all you see is HP wireless installs. I HAVE seen, and worked on, plenty of HP ProCurve switches. There’s lots of those around. I just haven’t seen much HP wireless out there.
Back to the present day HP wireless though. Can you think of anything that sets HP apart in the wireless field? Can you describe them the same way you would Ruckus, Aerohive, or even Meru as it relates to technology that sets them apart?
In my mind, their wireless marketing is non-existent. You never see them out there. You never hear about them. Wireless companies with much smaller market share and marketing dollars are out there spreading their message constantly. Whether it is in social media or at technical events, they are out there. Perhaps I am in a bubble though. I fully accept the fact that I may be in a social media bubble as it relates to technology, and all of my peers that I interact with are focused on just a handful of vendors, or in some cases, just one. That is a possibility.
Let’s assume I am not in a bubble though. Let’s just assume that my reasoning is sound. When I think of wireless companies, I don’t rank HP in the top 5. That is not a dig on their technology. Not at all. To me, it is a matter of focus. I had the same problem with F5 dipping into the firewall space, and Riverbed dipping into the load balancer space(Sold to Brocade, by the way.). Brand recognition is important. What a company is known for is important, and changing people’s perceptions of that takes time and a whole lot of marketing.
When I think about HP buying Aruba, I see nothing but a slow death for Aruba’s product set within the HP machine. I fully expect them to get sucked up into a much larger corporation and get beat down with more corporate bureaucracy. I hope I am wrong though. I don’t think I am the only one who expected Meraki to get sucked up into Cisco and slowly killed off from a corporate culture standpoint. I have been surprised at how long Cisco has let them run as is, but with the Meraki founders leaving Cisco recently, maybe it wasn’t as it seemed.
If Aruba sells to HP, I hope that they continue to flourish. I hope that they are allowed to keep doing what they do today in terms of customer and partner engagement. I can tell you that Aruba is a good company to partner with from a technical perspective. The local Aruba team my company is engaged with are good folks. There is never a problem with providing whatever hardware we need to be successful. Training has been forthcoming as well. Aruba also has a really visible online and marketing presence.
I also hope that HP is serious about succeeding in the wireless arena. I hope that they use the goodwill that Aruba has and make their presence felt in the market. Maybe in a few years, HP will be a name that I hear people mention when considering wireless vendors.
I say all of this with consideration of the fact that the overwhelming majority of wireless work I do these days are with Cisco implementations. I’m typing this post in a hotel after finishing another Cisco wireless survey. I like Cisco wireless. It’s a good product. It works. The management piece is a whole different animal. I also like Aruba. Maybe a better way to put it is that I like competition. It makes all vendors better. If one vendor dominates a space too much, I think the wireless market as a whole suffers. While I hope that I am wrong with Aruba going off to die in HP, I can’t help but think that Cisco is all too happy to see this acquisition happen, if the rumors are true. Based on the previous years of HP missteps, I can see why this could be a good thing for Cisco.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Am I missing anything? Completely wrong?