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Aruba launches VXLAN management, GPS-enabled Wi-Fi networks

Aruba's Central NetConductor is a cloud-based service that delivers automation and identity-based network access to enforce zero-trust policies for users and devices.

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, introduced on Tuesday an Aruba Central service called NetConductor. The latest product lets network engineers create and manage Virtual Extensible LANs to scale out distributed cloud computing environments.

Aruba launched the latest technology on the opening day of its Atmosphere customer conference. The company also released a set of self-locating Wi-Fi 6E access points (APs).

NetConductor creates Virtual Extensible LANs (VXLANs) for running overlay networks, making it easier for network managers to scale out cloud computing environments while logically isolating cloud applications and tenants. The product is available in Aruba Central, a cloud-based management console for the company's switches and APs across a campus. Central will provide the NetConductor tools for provisioning, configuring and managing VXLANs.

NetConductor pushes security and connectivity configurations across the network at scale, said Larry Lunetta, Aruba's vice president of wireless LAN and security marketing. It handles security through identity-based access for users and devices built into the network fabric. The architecture can enforce zero-trust network access anywhere in the network.

"Aruba Central NetConductor is a set of cloud-native services, Aruba Central services, wrapped in a solution ... that provides a new way of configuring and securing networks," Lunetta said.

NetConductor employs AI for management and optimization, and builds on identity-based security features like cloud-native network access control (NAC) and dynamic segmentation. The management platform uses a containerized and microservices-based architecture, which could help it scale in the future, according to Moor Insights & Strategy analyst Will Townsend. It operates using Ethernet VPN VXLAN protocols and sits at layer 2 of the Open Systems Interconnection model.

Screenshot of the Aruba Central NetConductor for VXLAN overlay management
The new Aruba Central NetConductor user interface.

"Aruba has done a good job of bringing everything into one portfolio and one software stack," said Alan Weckel, an analyst at 650 Group. "That's what NetConductor does well in terms of the competitive landscape."

NetConductor is "an extension of what [Aruba has] been doing with ClearPass and with Aruba Central," Townsend said. ClearPass is a policy management platform for NAC.

Aruba's latest set of APs includes location services enabled by GPS. The Wi-Fi 6E APs in Aruba's 600 series have GPS receivers that let network managers locate and map the hardware with greater accuracy than with manual mapping or Bluetooth-based location services.

Network managers can use the latest access points as anchor locations for Aruba's 500 series of Wi-Fi 6 APs. A few 600 series APs can provide GPS location services across an entire 500 series deployment, according to Aruba.

The location services help build maps of the AP locations to ensure complete coverage and help prevent the loss of equipment installed in difficult-to-spot places. Customers can expect more robust use cases, such as wayfinding services, over the next six to nine months, Townsend said.

"Because Aruba has a very mature location-based services portfolio -- it's almost a decade old -- they may be able to sort of [shorten] that [development] process," he said. Aruba is ahead of Cisco and Juniper in providing location services based on GPS.

Aruba plans to make NetConductor generally available within Central in July. Last week, HPE announced that it would make Central available through its GreenLake program, which offers hardware and software through an as-a-service model. Companies can buy the latest APs today through GreenLake or a more traditional pricing model.

Madelaine Millar is a news writer covering network technology at TechTarget. She has previously written about science and technology for MIT's Lincoln Laboratory and the Khoury College of Computer Sciences, as well as covering community news for Boston Globe Media.

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