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Cutting Through the Mist: Why Cloud-Native Doesn’t Mean Cloud-Only

By Larry Lunetta, VP WLAN & Security Solutions Marketing
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Cutting Through the AI Mist

When startups are late to the game, the only way they can succeed is by betting on the next big thing. But what happens when they bet on the wrong trend or technical innovation? If the startup is trying to sell mission-critical IT solutions, then their product comes to market missing critical capabilities. This puts their customers (and their customers’ own customers) at risk.

We are seeing this play out in the network operations space. Small, startup vendors that came on the scene five or six years ago bet that the move to the cloud meant that all network functions were going to be delivered by the cloud. That might have seemed forward-thinking at the time, but in 2021, events and the need to protect a highly distributed organization have overtaken this “cloud-only” perspective.

We’re now seeing the “work from anywhere” era leapfrog into a brand-new architectural era: edge-to-cloud. With that comes a disaggregation of data centers and accelerated digital transformation driven by IoT. The cloud is still critically important for its scale, agility, and rich operating environment, to be sure. But with work from home, 50+ billion IoT devices, and 75% of corporate data processed and analyzed at the point of origin, an architecture that coordinates best-of-breed edge network services with those delivered in the cloud is essential.

So, what have the cloud-only startups ignored, and what edge-specific challenges have they left customers to solve?

1. Increasingly dangerous threats and attacks. The threat environment has shifted to user compromises and vulnerable IoT devices. When your network architecture assumes that customers will bolt-on the security with an uncoordinated mix of third-party solutions, your network becomes an attractive attack vector that increases risk.

Why Aruba? We offer built-in identity-based access control that the cyber insurance industry has determined reduces risk while supporting Zero Trust and SASE security frameworks. See the details here.

2. Unreliable AI. Yes, by all means go all-in for “self-driving” networks when it comes to AI…but remember, vendors first need data to train the models to produce insights that you can trust. You’re using these insights to make changes to your network, so if the insights are based off of limited data, can you really make changes to the network with confidence? The challenge with relying on AI to manage your network is that scale is required to produce the data needed for accurate AI, and it’s not something that startups have.

Why Aruba? Our large customer base allows us to collect a wider variety and greater volume of fresh, relevant data each day—more than startups will have seen in their entire lifetime. And we continuously train our AI models to recognize new scenarios so you can trust our insights and recommendations.

3. Mission-critical support. In the past five years, the network has shifted from being a means to connect to a mission-critical asset that supports everything from work-from-home to reinventing business models. So, when a startup decides to outsource first line technical support to an AI bot that hasn’t been sufficiently trained to be reliable, the customer is left holding the bag.

Why Aruba? Our individualized “know me, know my network” approach combines technology with readily available, expert, and personal assistance for 24 x7, mission-critical support.

4. Connectivity that matches business needs. The edge requires world-class Wi-Fi, wired, WAN, IoT, and cellular connectivity. Networking startups usually provide bare essentials, so they typically just focus on Wi-Fi. Luckily for customers, the bar for Wi-Fi excellence went up considerably over the last several years in the form of Wi-Fi Alliance Certifications. Not surprisingly, cloud-only startups shortchange the edge and while they don’t come close to covering the full range of connectivity requirements, they also can’t get their access points certified. If your users and devices can’t physically connect, no amount of cloud software will help.

Why Aruba? We certify our access points and were the first to ship 1 million Wi-Fi 6 APs. We’ve also led the effort to open the Wi-Fi 6E spectrum and key industry standards like WPA3 for mobile security, and the device provisioning protocol (DPP) for streamlined IoT onboarding have both come from our labs. Our industry-leading switches span the data center to the edge with a common operating environment, and Silver Peak SD-WAN has appeared as a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for three years running. The bottom line is that Aruba continues to be the recognized leader in networking innovation—from the edge to the cloud—and that’s an indisputable fact.

5. Contact tracing is more than a dot on a map. Cloud-only vendors will spend hours talking about how they put dots on the map. But, dots of course are people, and when it comes to privacy and trust that’s required to successfully use wireless data to protect employees, guests, and customers, these vendors revert to showcasing Bluetooth radios.

Why Aruba? With a development team that worked closely with HPE’s Chief Privacy Officer, our contact tracing solution started with the concept that security, privacy, and trust are essential to the solution. Our Privacy by Design philosophy has helped organizations understand and feel comfortable using this kind of technology and enabled them to introduce contact tracing that is consistent with their own legal, cultural, and ethical principles. For more on Aruba and HPE’s Privacy by Design, please listen to this podcast. 

6. Scarce resources and the need for flexible deployment and financing. Cloud-only vendors haven’t realized that not all customers want or need network management in the cloud, and if they deploy in the cloud, they want a choice of platforms. This is not possible with small, cloud-only vendors because by definition, they don’t have an on-premises option and can’t deliver their solution on multiple cloud platforms—they just lack the resources. Additionally, the cloud-only vendor is even further behind when it comes to network as a service (NaaS) delivery and financing options.

Why Aruba? Backed by HPE financial services, Aruba’s NaaS simplifies, accelerates, and automates the design, deployment, and management of network solutions in the cloud, on premises, and in your choice of cloud platforms. The key word here is “choice”—we give our customers choices because we understand that budgets are stretched thin, but the need to innovate and adopt new technology remains strong.

So, what’s the bottom line here? Cloud-native does not mean cloud-only, and as the name implies, edge-to-cloud networking means that business solutions are now built, deployed and delivered at any point in your IT architecture—from the home or factory floor, to the data center to the cloud.

With that in mind, Aruba made significant innovation investments to deliver Aruba ESP, our cloud-native Edge Services Platform, built for the edge-to-cloud era. With 15 straight years as a leader in the Gartner Wired and Wireless Magic Quadrant and 70,000+ cloud customers managed by Aruba Central, Aruba ESP not only delivers the scale, consolidated management, and cloud agility that our customers require, but also fills in the gaps at the edge that the cloud-only startups simply cannot cover.

Get more information on Aruba ESP and our Edge-to-Cloud architecture.