My Aruba Atmosphere 2015 review

By Craig Schnarrs, Blog Contributor
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I just got back from attending Aruba Atmosphere 2015, and it was an event full of fun and excitement. The event was held at the Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. The excitement started the week prior when a rumor came out that HP was going to be buying Aruba Networks. This set off a flurry of interest on Twitter. While the reactions ranged from positive to negative, most folks adopted the attitude of wait and see.  The conference started on the weekend for partner training.

The weekend came and went and nothing was said. There was excitement in the air. I had heard the partner training was good, and I expected nothing less.   Aruba has an all-star training team that includes Kimberly Graves and David Westcott. It was my pleasure to meet both of these people and I must say I was impressed by their knowledge and true professionalism.

Monday morning came and I saw the news on Twitter, the rumors were true, HP was going to be acquiring Aruba. I began to wonder what would happen to the Aruba culture that everyone talks about so much. This environment is based on a Customer first , Customer focused model.  This driving passion propelled Aruba to the number two spot in a very competitive market.

HP has been through a lot of management changes at the top in recent times, and a lot of their past acquisitions were less than stellar. I was still wondering how this would all play out. I attended the keynote address Tuesday Morning by Dominic Orr, the president and CEO of Aruba Networks.

He talked about how in the past wireless and wired, was like a happy meal, where wired was the hamburger and wireless was the fries. Now, however, in this evolving technological world wireless was now the hamburger and the wired side was now the fries. Together with HP, they could deliver the complete package or as Dom referred to it, "the happy meal". He also talked about how companies were now able to deploy an all wireless office, and it only gets better from here.

There was a surprise visit from HP CEO Meg Whitman, attending via satellite from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. She said that her intent is "to allow Aruba to prosper and scale at HP. The white glove service you provide your customers … everything that's special about Aruba we want to flourish and want to let it run."

Next, there were presentations by Aruba's partners. First up was the CEO of Mobile Iron Bob Tinker,  who talked about the future of work and how MobileIron was committed to its partnership with Aruba. He was followed by Chad Kinzelberg the VP of Palo Alto Networks, who emphasized their continued partnership and joint effort. Chad pointed out that Palo Alto products were much more nimble. That they don't rely on port based scanning like traditional firewall vendors did.  Last, Jayshree Ullal the CEO of Arista Networks, spoke. I found her presentation to be both riveting and dynamic. She had a clear message that Arista does one thing and does it very well. Her delivery was spot on.

The message from all the partners was the same, we were partners before the HP announcement and we will be partners going forward. Dominic Orr came back on stage along with Keerti Melkote, the Chief Technology Officer of Aruba Networks. Dom talked about how the Airheads community was one of Aruba's most valuable assets ,  and "that will not change". How Aruba valued its partners, and "that will not change". How Aruba's culture and customer first based approach was here to stay, and "that will not change". This message was delivered consistently and confidently.

It was explained that Dom and Keerti would be in charge of not only Aruba but the HP Networking business unit and would be allowed to "let it run". HP knows what a treasure they are getting in this acquisition and I think that this merger has a great chance at success if HP can stay out of its own way and let the Aruba management team continue on with the tradition of success that has been based on its customer first approach.

The conference had several breakout sessions, ranging in experience level from newcomer, to professional, to advanced up to Guru breakouts. There was something for everybody.  There was a smartphone app to navigate through the conference that provided an interactive map using BLE beacons placed around the conference center to show accurate indoor location. The application also provided the agendas for the sessions.

I really liked learning about Clearpass and its components. The sessions were clear and very well thought out. There were breaks between sessions that included snacks and soft drinks. I particularly liked the smoothies that were served between one my sessions.  It was a healthy treat that tasted great.

In the afternoon, they had a tech playground area where partners showcased their products and refreshments were served. I found that this was a great place to network with others that I had been communicating with on Twitter but had never had the chance to meet in person. The conference provided Wi-Fi was really good and I didn't have any issues, even while in the keynote speeches with several hundred other users. It was fast, free and easy to use.

One of the newest additions to the breakout sessions this year was what was called Ten Talks. This is where a person gets up and talks about a topic for ten minutes and is followed by several other people. Each person speaks on a different subject. I spoke on the topic of supporting Wi-Fi in a Fortune 10 company and the challenges that come with it.

Another interesting session, that I participated in as a panelist was the Tech Field Day round table. This is where a group of Wi-Fi subject matter experts discuss subjects relevant to wireless and its surrounding subject matter. There were three topics discussed at the round table. HP Aruba acquisition and what does the future hold. Future proofing your network with 802.11ac wave 2 and MGig, do you need it? and finally, Improving  air quality using tools and tactics to make operational Wi-Fi happen. These roundtable sessions were very productive and provided a lot of useful information about the topics.

In the evening there was a special guest performance by comedian Dana Carvey. This was a great way to relax and enjoy the conference , watching such a talented performer.

Overall, I felt the conference was a great experience. I learned a lot, made some new friends, and most importantly, everyone was assured by Dom that Aruba will continue the same path that it has been on

Customer First, Customer Focused "that will not change".