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Aruba head Mottram prioritizes automation, Central, NaaS

Customers agreed that automation and the Central management console were essential to them. But Phil Mottram's plans to deliver more products as a service got mixed reviews.

Phil Mottram, who became head of Aruba nine months ago, has identified three customer priorities that will make the wired and wireless LAN provider a fiercer competitor against its largest rivals, Cisco and Juniper Networks. They include improving the cloud-based Central management console, providing more network automation and delivering additional products as a service.

This week at the Atmosphere user conference, Mottram said additional Central services could come as early as June. One would let managers go back and review the network state when a problem occurred.

"Let's say that you heard that the problem starts at about one o'clock -- [you'll] just literally drag the [Central] time bar back to one o'clock, and it shows you what's going on in the network at one o'clock," Mottram said in an interview.

Phil MottramPhil Mottram

Mottram's focus on Central is the right move for many Atmosphere attendees.

"For me, the great platform is Aruba Central," said Jorge Reis, the executive director of Brazilian company AMR IT Consulting Services Solutions. "You can see everything from the cloud, and you can administrate unique environments. That's a nice way to go to the line of business problems nowadays and solve it for my customers."

Aruba's latest addition to Central is NetConductor. Announced this week, the VXLAN overlay unifies Aruba's infrastructure and software to configure, orchestrate and automate network and security services.

Mottram's plans to increase network automation to minimize grunt work also got a thumbs-up from Atmosphere attendees.

"Incorporating [in Central] some of the platforms they have and making configurations more simple -- things like that -- will save a ton of time," said Kim Gratehouse, the service delivery manager at German insurance company Munich Re. "It takes tons of time right now to do patching -- to plan for it, to do it. If you can set up profiles and have things automated, set times and parameters, you're better off."

Mottram's third priority, a flexible, subscription-based network-as-a-service consumption model, got mixed reactions. Many partners are ready to layer their managed services on top of the model, but customers, particularly schools on fixed budgets, don't see NaaS as a good fit for them.

"In my experience with K-12, they like to buy the equipment [and] own the equipment because they never know when their budget is going to change," Ryan Rothkopf, CEO of Provision Data Solutions, said in a previous interview. Provision, based in Chesterfield, Mo., installs network infrastructure at schools.

Even if NaaS doesn't appeal to every customer, its ability to scale up or down as needed will be a significant draw for many companies, Mottram said. Aruba has recently begun to offer eight popular network functions as a service through Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Greenlake subscription model. Aruba, an HPE company, eventually plans to provide all its products through Greenlake.

Mottram's most serious obstacle to meeting his goals is the snarled global supply chain hampering the business of many technology companies.

"We've got a backlog that is significantly higher than what we would normally have, and there's only limited supply capacity in the system," Mottram said. "It's a matter of us working with the key component suppliers to make sure that we get our … share of the equipment."

Mottram has set three criteria for rating his success in leading Aruba.

"If three years from now we have a standout cloud platform that links to a broader range of products, I've kept the same culture and we are hugely leading the market on NaaS, then I have done a good job."

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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