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Jon Gold
Senior Writer

Aruba CTO says IoT is great fun to work on

Apr 04, 20183 mins
Internet of ThingsMobileSmall and Medium Business

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Credit: Thinkstock

Not everybody in business IT seems like they’re having a great time at their job, but Aruba CTO Partha Narasimhan is an exception. He sat down with Network World at the company’s 2018 Atmosphere conference in Las Vegas to talk IoT, onboarding and more.

Like company president Keerti Melkote, Narasimhan noted that Aruba’s experience in onboarding devices during the era of BYOD being an issue has stood it in good stead for IoT, but he said that the technical challenge is far greater.

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IoT’s harder than BYOD ever was, because there’s a lot more heterogeneity in the devices that have to be onboarded to the network – at the worst of times, network managers generally only had to worry about iOS, Android and Blackberry devices, which could all be provisioned in relatively similar ways.

“If I don’t know about a device, I don’t know how to construct a policy for it – so the first layer is ‘[what] is this device attempting to do?” he said.

IoT poses more technical challenges than that, including the way that it poses a second major shift, after mobility, in network topologies.

The assumption was made in the 1990s that VLAN as a tool for segmentation was sufficient, since network topologies didn’t tend to change very much. “When we get to mobility, topology changes all the time,” said Narasimhan. IoT has less of an issue with mobility, but “the same principles we used to solve mobility carry over in the form of segmentation.”

To hear Narasimhan tell it, he’s excited to be working with the additional technical complexities of IoT. It’s a more diverse workload for a CTO than simply building the best possible wireless access points.

“I don’t want to discount building networking boxes and solving wireless technology, but this is fun,” he said. “And we’re still not done, there’s [802.]11ax still being worked on, we expect to release an access point this year, and those are fun problems because the technology is complex but what it allows us to do, it opens up a few doors.”

Nevertheless, the move toward IoT has Narasimhan excited, as it represents a new challenge for a company known mostly as a provider of enterprise WLAN hardware.

“Transcending over to the physical world is fun,” he said.

The current state of IoT is reminiscent of the early days of the Internet, he said, which he first encountered as a grad student in the 1980s.

“You just used telnet in those days. In early days over there, there was this inherent trust in the system, that this was not going to be used for anything bad,” Narasimhan stated. “I see the IoT world in a similar state, inherently you assume that it was siloed and cordoned off and ‘I don’t need to worry about security,’ but as you try to pin these systems together, that is not a sustainable position, and these become juicy targets.”