Let’s Revisit The Aruba Networks Acquisition

Aruba-HP-LogoBack in February, I wrote a piece entitled “HP Buying Aruba?”. In that post, I provided some context around why I thought HP buying Aruba could end up being a bad idea. I also mentioned in that post that I hoped HP did right by Aruba’s customer base and didn’t put the corporate handcuffs on them.

After several months and many conversations with HP, Aruba, and my peers, I have a different take. I am not 100% ready to back off from my concerns though. The acquisition has closed. The deal is done. However, it is too early in the process to be certain of much of anything regarding the future state of Aruba, its products, and its ability to execute as they have in the past. Let’s just say I am about 75% headed in the opposite direction of my initial concerns.

This past week, I was fortunate enough to attend HP Discover in Las Vegas. HP paid for my travel and expenses for HP Discover. For that, I thank them and I can definitively tell you that I was not pressured into writing anything as a result of this trip. As luck would have it, Aruba had a decent presence at the conference. Since the acquisition of Aruba by HP just closed a few weeks ago, there was a lot that could not be done from a legal standpoint until the deal closed. When I initially registered for HP Discover, I didn’t see much of anything in the way of sessions regarding Aruba Networks on the agenda. Thankfully, that changed in short order and I was able to sit in on numerous sessions related to Aruba Networks and their products/strategy in the past few days.

Most of the sessions were very basic in nature. I attribute that to a very short amount of time that was given to Aruba to prepare, since they couldn’t really cooperate with HP until the deal was closed. Additionally, the assumption was probably made that most wireless people at HP Discover would not be existing Aruba customers. I’d say that was probably a fair assessment. The geek in me would have loved to see sessions similar to what were given at Aruba’s Atmosphere conference, but that would have taken a lot more time to prepare for, and Aruba just didn’t have that kind of time. Nevertheless, it was a valiant effort on the part of Aruba, and I think they did the best they could with the limited time they had to prepare.

Well, if I didn’t learn much in the sessions, except for the Meridian one, was I able to get any additional information at the conference? In short, yes. I had quite a few conversations with a few folks at Aruba and HP, as well as some discussions with other fellow bloggers who were there with me. Although nothing was 100% in terms of future state, I think I got a good feel for where I THINK they are headed with the combined companies.

I’d like to take some time and really expound on a few key areas like ecosystem, company culture, execution, and final Aruba/HP product disposition. However, I also think it is worthwhile to try and get a feel for who Aruba is as a company. If you are familiar with them already, then this post probably isn’t for you. Wait until my follow up posts on the key areas I just mentioned. They should be coming out this week, unless the Aruba training class I am in gets the better of me and I am mentally exhausted after each day.

If you aren’t familiar with Aruba and their company culture, here are a few video clips that may help you understand them:

The following excerpt is from the keynote address that Dominic Orr gave at Aruba’s Atmosphere 2015 conference in Las Vegas. You can watch the whole thing if you want, but I think the interesting part comes at the end when Dominic explains the HP acquisition. If you don’t want to watch it, here is a TL/DR version where I paraphrase Dominic’s comments.

1. The Airheads community is Aruba’s biggest asset.
2. All partners are an incredible asset to the company.
3. Our loyalty and dedication to you will not change. Customer first. Customer last. That aspect of Aruba’s culture will not change. That culture is an appreciation of how customers stuck their neck out and took a chance on Aruba. Aruba will not forget that.
4. Aruba will go out to battle with you. That competitive culture and commitment to being the leader in the mobile access layer will not change.

Watch video up to about 1:30.

Another video out of the same Atmosphere conference was a Tech Field Day roundtable discussion. There are some interesting points made by members of the panel, but I think the real value of this discussion starts with the audience questions. Two main things to note in this portion of the video that begins at 17min45sec into it. First, Ben Carnevale makes a VERY good point regarding company culture, and Ryan Adzima adds relevant commentary around it. Second, Eddie Forero adds on to Ben’s comment with the statement that although he trusts Dominic Orr, he wants HP to NOT make him a liar.

Closing Thoughts

Once you understand how different Aruba Networks is from HP in terms of culture, you understand why there was so much initial hesitation around this acquisition. I’m a lot more optimistic after spending last week at HP Discover, but there are still plenty of unknowns. A lot can happen in the next year. I’ll look into my crystal ball in follow up posts and see if I can make sense of how this Aruba acquisition can be a good thing. There’s also the potential for it to be a bad thing, but I think there are some good things in motion that should prevent that.

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