Aruba CEO: ‘We acquired HP Networking when HP acquired us’

A year after wireless mover-and-shaker Aruba was acquired by HP in a $3 billion deal, President and CEO Dominic Orr said that, if anything, the company was more in control of its own destiny than ever.

Instead of being absorbed into the broader HP Enterprise ecosystem, it feels as though Aruba’s been hired to take over the larger company’s wireless efforts. HPE employees, like those working in HP Networking’s previous wireless programs, are coming under Aruba’s wing, according to Orr.

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“It’s a reverse acquisition, in the sense that HPE acquired Aruba, and Aruba acquired HP Networking,” he told Network World in an interview at the company’s annual Atmosphere conference.

Aruba, ahead of Atmosphere, rolled out a new unified suite of software and hardware designed to address the top challenges of modern wireless networks. The emphasis is on security, mobile devices and easy management, in a world where those things can cause headaches.

“We’re looking at this workplace transformation from kind of a desktop to a mobile-first environment,” Orr said. “We believe that the portfolio of HP’s wired infrastructure and Aruba’s wireless plus our software is very complimentary – but equally importantly, the market segmentation coverage is very good.”

Beyond the technology, he added, the acquisition has dramatically broadened the range of potential customers for which Aruba can compete. Previously, while the company’s technology was very well-regarded, its customer base was heavily tilted towards midtier campus networking deployments.

By contrast, Orr said, HP traditionally did well with both giant global companies and the SMB market.

“Basically it’s a sandwich – they have the biggest accounts [and] the smallest accounts, and we have the middle,” he stated.

And for each of those customers, Aruba can now compete for a greater share of the IT spending on any given network deployment, thanks to the integration with HP. Where previously the company would be competing for the wireless segment and the wireless segment alone, the integration means that the wired back-end and the architecture and other services are now also in play.

“Now, we’ve captured almost the whole dollar. Because of that, we can really afford to have very high-touch customers,” Orr said. “Under the previous model, the large account was mostly incremental, because Aruba was just too small to do business with a global 500 account.”

Orr remains bullish about the company’s future, but acknowledges that there’s still work to be done – some of it focused on personnel issues.

“I’m the first to tell you that we, in gender diversity, are not exemplary,” Orr said. “I’m not happy with Aruba’s gender diversity.”

Since networking hardware, he said, remains a male-dominated field even by the standards of the tech industry, he wants to create a legacy of strong female role models in the ranks, as a spur to broader inclusivity.

“I think people like role models, people are attracted to successful, up-and-coming people, so I think a lot of times, you have to create a few heroes,” Orr argued.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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