Note: This is part of a multi-post series I am writing that compares Aruba to HP and how the integration of Aruba Networks into HP might play out. You can read my intro post here.
I am a HUGE fan of vendor ecosystems. A HUGE fan. I have written about them before. The last post I wrote on them can be found here. I really do think they are the key to driving a vendor’s success. One could argue that the large vendors have it easy. They have the resources to build those ecosystems. They can spend money that the smaller vendors cannot and can essentially buy loyalty from customers and partners. Of course, at some point, those large vendors were small ones. They did something different to propel them to the large vendor status. Their competition fell by the wayside and either drifted off into obsolescence, or just outright died.
Sorry. There is no TL/DR for this post. Buckle up. It’s a long one.
So let’s get a lay of the land when it comes to ecosystems between HP and Aruba. Let me clear about one thing. This is specific to wireless. This has nothing to do with the many things HP is doing around SDN and other areas of networking.
Let’s focus on the following topics:
External Technical Websites
The end goal of all of these things is to produce large numbers of networking professionals who are knowledgable and comfortable with the HP wireless portfolio. It carries over into other areas of networking as well. Get people fired up about one section of your product portfolio and it should translate into an uptick in sales for the other products. If they trust you in one area, there is a good chance they will trust you in another area.
HP’s Wireless Ecosystem
The one area that HP has an advantage over Aruba is that of books. Although their books tend to be certification focused, they have at least begun efforts in the past few years to get technical content out there. I suspect that over time they will be able to produce more books that are technically focused outside of the certification process.
The certification program with regards to HP’s wireless solutions has been up and running for some time now. If you look at the list of available certifications here, you won’t find much in the way of wireless. They do offer the Accredited Systems Engineer(ASE) certification for wireless. They also offer the Master ASE certification for wireless. Neither of these are certifications that I am very familiar with. I have no idea what the numbers are of certified professionals regarding these programs. I could not find any published numbers around either of these programs. If someone can provide those numbers, I would love to see them. Suffice to say, there is not any sort of lab-based exam regarding HP wireless that I am aware of.
HP Discover has been going on for several years now, and occurs in multiple parts of the globe. When I attended the Las Vegas conference in 2011, I tried to attend as many networking sessions as I could. Several of them were wireless focused. However, these sessions tended to be very high level and didn’t have a whole lot of technical content. I do recall one session in 2011 that covered their wireless security solutions that had some technical content.
As for the 2015 conference in Las Vegas that I attended last week, I recall just one session that seemed to be HP wireless specific. I skipped it after learning it would not be Aruba-focused, so I am not entirely sure how much technical depth was in that session. The other sessions I attended that were wireless focused were Aruba-centric. Those sessions were relatively high level and seemed to be more of an introduction to the Aruba wireless line. I attribute that to the very short time Aruba had to prepare for the conference.
I should also point out that except for the keynotes, I didn’t see any video recording of the sessions in either the 2011 show or the 2015 show. When I went to look for past sessions, I found nothing of any significant value. As for videos, the lack of recordings of breakout sessions meant that there was nothing to watch, other than an occasional interview with HP Networking executives. A search for HP Wireless videos on YouTube, simply gave me a bunch of videos with people fixing printer problems.
As for their show floor at HP Discover, they always had their wireless gear on display, except for the 2015 show. If you wanted any sort of technical depth on HP wireless, you had to talk to the people on the show floor.
Having attended the Las Vegas Interop show a few times, I have seen HP with a large booth each year I visited. The wireless group from HP tended to be at all of those shows as well. They had all of their products on display, and if you wanted to chat with someone from the wireless unit, they were available, much like at the HP Discover show I attended in 2011.
I found one. It is from 2010 and can be seen here. I could not find anymore. That isn’t to say that they don’t exist. I even checked the partner site, since I work for an HP partner. If you deal with servers and storage, there is a decent amount of content on the partner site. However, for networking, I found nothing of substance.
External Technical Websites
This would be the place where I tell you about non-HP websites/blogs that write about HP wireless topics. I couldn’t find any. Of course, I don’t speak and read every language across the globe, so if a site didn’t show up in an English Google search, I missed it.
As for the forums, there are some posts on HP’s support site, but they tend to be relatively sparse. It doesn’t appear to be a very active segment of the HP support forums site.
HP has a decent marketing machine. It appears to be directed at management though. I assume they have a pretty decent sized budget, but I am guessing a lot of that effort gets focused on the personal systems, or the server and storage side of the house. I don’t see much in the way of HP wireless, if any. It isn’t for lack of looking on my part. I get tons of e-mails from various vendors. I even allow LinkedIn to send me e-mails when people post to groups. I see an occasional e-mail about HP Networking, but never really about the wireless line.
I don’t know how big the partner network is for HP in the realm of networking. I suspect it is the same deal as a lot of other vendor partners. Partners tend to sell big for one or two brands in the networking space and maintain a partner relationship for other vendors they don’t sell as much for. They are essentially partners in name only. Think of it as an insurance policy. If you don’t want my primary vendor(usually Cisco), I can offer you this other vendor(e.g. Juniper, Brocade, HP, etc).
Within the US, there are some big national resellers who will sell HP wireless gear, and probably some more regionally focused partners who do the same. I am familiar with all of the big players in my home market of Nashville, and I am unaware of any of them who move any HP wireless gear in substantial numbers. It may also be regionally focused. I know of one particular reseller with a presence in Nashville who does very little HP business in Tennessee, but sells a LOT of it in Florida. I fully admit I may have a limited view into the HP partner ecosystem, so I may be way off in my assessment of HP wireless sales.
HP has a pretty large social media presence, just not in the HP wireless realm. Let me give you a quick test. Go to Twitter’s website. Search for “HP wireless”. Look at the results. Now, search for “Cisco wireless”. Look at the results. See the difference?
I realize there is more to social media than Twitter. I checked Facebook. Nothing to note. I am sure you can find something on LinkedIn, but I am guessing it is more along the lines of finding HP employees to connect with.
Aruba’s Wireless Ecosystem
Sorry Aruba. You have no books to speak of. Considering you do have design guides and a fair amount of training courses, it isn’t all bad I suppose.
Although not as popular as Cisco wireless certifications, Aruba does have a very healthy certification program. From the basic high-level certification like the Aruba Certified Solutions Professional(ACSP) to the Aruba Certified Mobility Expert(ACMX) and Aruba Certified Design Expert(ACDX) certifications, there is something for everyone. People with the ACMX or ACDX certifications are required to pass a lab exam and are given a number unique to them when they pass. This is not something that is trivial to setup. It takes a lot more work to setup a proctored lab exam than it does to put together 100 or so questions for a written exam.
I am sitting in an Aruba Mobility Bootcamp course this week. It is the third Aruba course I have taken in the past year or so. The courses have materials that are all branded the same, which indicates a unity in course planning and management. It is a well oiled machine. Instructor knowledge varies, but is pretty good in my limited experience. When I took the ClearPass Advanced Labs course last year, it was taught by an ACMX. You can see the full certification layout here.
Aruba has its Atmosphere conference every year in multiple cities around the globe. The Las Vegas show is probably the biggest one. The conference is fairly heavy on the technical side. There are multiple tracks, but the Airheads track is for the technical end user.
A large number of these sessions are video recorded, and you can watch the videos on YouTube. Click here for a playlist of the 2015 Las Vegas show session videos. Additionally, as an Aruba Partner, I have access to the presentations that were restricted to Aruba partners. A lot of them were video recorded. The ones that were not recorded have the slide deck available for download.
Although I have never been to an Aruba conference, I expect all of their technology was on display at each event. I have no doubt there were plenty of Aruba experts on hand to talk about any facet of the technology. If you watch some of the breakout session videos, you will see a good amount of technical depth around their solutions.
I fully expect to see the full line of Aruba products on display at upcoming HP Discover conferences. What I will be curious about is if they have the same in depth technical breakout sessions that Atmosphere is known for.
I like what Aruba is doing in the way of design guides. Although just HAVING them is a good thing, they go a step further and make them publicly available to anyone without having to register on their website(You use a fake e-mail address for those sites, right?). You can see the design guides here(http://community.arubanetworks.com/t5/tkb/v2/page/blog-id/Aruba-VRDs/page/1?_ga=1.137053936.1587483989.1417455721). There are about 25 of them available as of this post.
External Technical Websites
There are several Wi-Fi professionals out there that write technical articles about Aruba Networks. I’ll mention three of them, but I can assure you there are more. I specifically mention these three because they have real-world implementation experience with Aruba. Many of us who blog about all sorts of stuff may only have lab experience or an academic understanding when it comes to certain vendors.
The Airheads community is a vibrant one. You can take a peek by clicking here. Lots of engineers participate in asking and answering questions. In addition to the forum posts that are primarily Q&A based, there are frequent blog posts by Aruba employees as well as by outside wireless folks. You can see the latest blog posts here. I read a lot of these posts and I can tell you that they range from high-level to very deep from a technical perspective.
In addition to just having the Airheads community, Aruba Networks saw fit to appoint Sean Rynearson as chief Airhead, to ride herd over that unruly mob of Wi-Fi geeks. When he isn’t posting his scheduled tweet about joining Airheads(I kid. I kid.), Sean posts some pretty interesting links to technical content. It is nice to be able to reach out to a known human whenever issues or general questions arise!
Aruba does a pretty good job of marketing. They understand who they are marketing to and have a good mix of technical and high-level information. Although I am not a fan of webinars in general, Aruba has a fair amount of them available for partners and customers. As far as other marketing content, I seem to get a pretty steady stream of it via e-mail and via their YouTube page. I don’t necessarily like all of the videos, but there is a decent mix of things that would apply to managers and those that apply to more technical people.
One thing I do like in the way of marketing is their website. It is pretty straightforward and easy to navigate. On the parter side of the website, I have access to a fair amount of information. I would especially like to note the Arubapedia site that partners have access to. It is a tremendous amount of information related to all things Aruba from a technical perspective.
There are plenty of Aruba partners out there. When it comes to supporting partners, Aruba gets it. I have access to almost anything I need from a hardware and software perspective. The Aruba account teams I work with in Tennessee are always willing to help out in order to make us more effective as a partner. Whether it is training classes, or just help when we run into issues with implementations, they have always been willing to assist. I know that as the organization grows and more partners are onboarded, it will be more difficult for Aruba to give all of them the same service that my company receives today. However, I have access to a local Aruba partner rep, so if we are overloading the account teams, that person is able to step in and help out in any way they can.
When compared with the presence of HP Wireless in social media, Aruba has them vastly outnumbered. Consider that Aruba has representation on Twitter from the CTO down to the engineers. Marketing is on it as well. If you need to reach out to someone within Aruba, there is a good chance that you can find them via social media. Go to Twitter and search for Aruba Networks. You’ll find an active corporate Twitter account along with a large number of Aruba employees. You’ll also find them on LinkedIn.
When it comes to ecosystem, Aruba has HP Wireless beat hands down. When I think about what Aruba is to become, being part of HP, it looks promising. I say that knowing that Dominic Orr and Keerti Melkote will lead the HP Networking campus division. They fully understand the value of the Aruba ecosystem. I can only imagine that they will keep it intact. I have to take Dominic Orr at his word when he mentioned during the Atmosphere 2015 keynote in Las Vegas, that nothing will change.
HP certainly has the resources to build a great ecosystem. With the boost to their networking division that Aruba Networks gives them, I expect that ecosystem to grow much larger than it is today. Once HP splits into two companies, more focus can be directed towards winning the business of corporate customers, and adding more resources to their existing and future partners.