HPE Aruba Channel Chief: Security Is ‘Part Of Our DNA’

“It’s interesting because most people think of Aruba as a networking organization. But really, when they started, their whole pitch was security … There’s always been a security element to what Aruba does,” one longtime HPE Aruba partner tells CRN regarding the company’s secure networking legacy.


Lene Skov, HPE Aruba’s vice president of worldwide channels

HPE Aruba Networks is a known networking specialist, but the company’s legacy of secure networking and its recent security acquisition are both helping HPE Aruba stand out in the highly competitive networking market —especially as networking and security are increasingly being thought of as interrelated, Lene Skov, HPE Aruba’s vice president of worldwide channels, told CRN.

The company is taking a closer look at the security market. That means bringing on new security-focused channel partners, empowering existing partners that are already specializing in networking and security and addressing customer concerns with HPE Aruba’s new security offerings, Skov said.

“We absolutely need to look into the security market because I’m sure there’s a lot of partners that we haven’t partnered up with [in the past] that we can now address with the new security solutions. I would say expanding the partner community will definitely be one of the areas we’re looking into,” she said in an exclusive interview.

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Skov, a nine-year Aruba Networks veteran who was promoted to HPE Aruba's channel chief seat in June, said that secure networking has always been one of the foundations in which company founder Keerti Melkote built and launched Aruba Networks in 2002.

The company in 2011 bought network access security company Avenda Systems, which led to the creation of Aruba’s flagship ClearPass offering, a zero trust policy management system that’s widely used to onboard devices and keep enterprise networks secure. Flash forward to six months ago when HPE Aruba acquired Israeli cloud security software maker Axis Security in a move that would turn up the heat on the secure access service edge (SASE) competition by giving HPE the “most comprehensive edge portfolio in the industry,” HPE CEO Antonio Neri told CRN at the time.

“It was kind of [Melkote’s] guiding principle to be able to deliver network securely — it’s part of our DNA. We have done a number of acquisitions in the past that have been actually improving the basis for secure networking like ClearPass and with the latest acquisition of Axis, we are expanding our security field,” Skov said. “You could say that we can now replace some point solutions for the customers [because partners] can go in with an end-to-end Aruba solution.”

HPE Aruba will be further zeroing in on security opportunities with the help of its channel partners, she added.

Albertson, N.Y.-based solution provider Vandis is an example of a HPE Aruba partner that’s focused on secure networking, with networking being the firm’s “foundational technology,” said Andy Segal, president of Vandis.

“You can’t be fully secure if you don’t have a well-designed network. And you can’t have a well-designed network if you’re not secure. They’re completely intertwined,” he said.

Vandis early on saw networking and security going hand in hand, presenting a “natural” growth opportunity for the firm to focus on both areas, Segal said. Aruba Networks stood out in the market, he added.

“It’s interesting because most people think of Aruba as a networking organization. But really, when they started, their whole pitch was security. So, they’ve kind of come full circle. There’s always been a security element to what Aruba does,” Segal said.

A partner to the vendor for more than 20 years, Vandis executives said that the recent Axis acquisition brought HPE Aruba’s entire secure networking story together.

“Now they have the ability to do microsegmentation at the switch layer, the wireless layer, the data center layer, and with acquisition of Axis, they’re able to do it at the edge. Now they really have a compelling story for work from home users, the hybrid users, the agentless portal for contractors, [etc.]. It’s really a fantastic journey that they’ve been on,” said Ryan Young, chief technology officer for Vandis.

What further differentiates Aruba in the increasingly consolidating network and security markets is that security hasn’t been retrofitted into the company’s networking portfolio. New services and offering are constantly being added on top of the foundation of the core Aruba product that was that was put on the market 20 years ago, Skov said.

“The fact that we constantly build on top of our solution, instead of adding or buying up solutions that doesn’t fit the foundation we stand on is actually what makes us very strong,” she said. “I would say the offering is probably the best we’ve ever had.”