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Aruba Rolls The Cloud Into Virtual Branch 2.0

Aruba Networks has introduced an update to last year's Virtual Branch Networking (VBN) product launch. VBN 2.0 combines Aruba's wireless hardware platform with a unique set of cloud services to secure and improve performance connecting to remote sites. By pulling together a set of partners and leveraging the capabilities of its mobility hardware, Aruba is offering an alternate vision of branch office connectivity and trying to dispel the notion that the only way to deliver app acceleration and security is with dedicated hardware.

To speed up the WAN links between the branch office and corporate, VBN 2.0 now includes Aruba's Application Acceleration Service (AAS) and Content Delivery Network (CDN). The solution on a server in the data center, as well as its remote access points (RAP) at the endpoints. The endpoints, basically hybrid wireless access points with additional processing capabilities, will do basic network protocol optimization and compression for the common protocols, including web browsing, Windows file staring and Microsoft Exchange. The CDN solution joins in the acceleration by pushing shared data closer to end users, creating a world-wide cache for branch offices to tap into, instead of constantly traveling the WAN links back to the home office.  

Similarly, Aruba is approaching content security at branch locations without back-hauling the traffic back to the data center. Traditional web-filtering solutions form a choke point at the enterprise data center, funneling all of a company's Internet traffic through a single point, then applying corporate policies against it. The downside of this approach, of course, is that web access from a branch location requires that traffic run up and down the site's WAN or VPN links, adding lag time in the process. Aruba's Content Security Service (CSS) puts this traffic management, content filtering and antivirus/anti-spam protection in the cloud, sparing the end-user from the multiple hops to reach their web destination.  

Lastly, Aruba is offering an alternative to their RAP hardware for remote connectivity. Like its the hardware equivalent, the new Virtual Intranet Access (VIA) client offers users an automatic connection back to the corporate office, but comes in the form of a Windows client, instead of the small hardware RAP solution. While the RAP solution is designed for sharing a common connection with multiple devices, the VIA product is focused on delivering dedicated connectivity for the laptop user.

While it is interesting that these new services are coming from a company typically known for its WLAN products, the approach that Aruba Networks is taking with its new services is far more compelling. With VBN 2.0, Aruba is taking the old "one neck to choke" adage to new heights. Notably, while Aruba will acknowledge that it is working with best-of-breed cloud partners to deliver these services, the company at no point identifies these partners, noting that Aruba will be the single point of contact for these services, an approach that will likely appeal to many enterprise customers. While enterprise IT staff could certainly stitch these services together through a myriad of vendors, the fact that Aruba is bringing these together for them, with guaranteed integration, on existing hardware, and only one support line to call, will be an attraction option.