Earlier this year, fellow industry analyst\u00a0Lee Doyle wrote a blog post on the software-defined branch (SD-Branch) market hitting $3 billion by 2022. Doyle defines the SD-Branch as having SD-WAN, routing, network security, and LAN\/Wi-Fi functions all in one platform with integrated, centralized management. An SD-Branch can be thought of as the next step after SD-WAN, as the latter transforms the transport and the former focuses on things in the branch, such as optimizing user experience and improving security.\nI don\u2019t often critique other analysts work, as their opinion is theirs and not everyone agrees. However, in this case, I don't think \u201call in one platform\u201d should be a requirement. The integrated and centralized management hits the nail on the head, but the software should act as a management overlay, so even though the infrastructure isn\u2019t a \u201csingle box,\u201d it\u2019s managed like it.\nModernizing the WAN and branch\nThis week, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) company, announced its SD-Branch solution that\u2019s aimed at modernizing the WAN and the branch for an optimized experience. The components of the solution include a newly introduced Aruba Branch Gateway, an Ethernet switch, and a Wi-Fi access point. The Aruba Central cloud management portal provides a single pane of glass to manage the wired and wireless network, enforce policies, and manages branch connectivity. The policies are still created in Aruba\u2019s ClearPass, but the Branch Gateway acts as the translator between ClearPass and Central.\n\nThis proves my case that even though the product isn\u2019t physically unified into a single platform, Aruba Central can push configurations down to the Branch Gateway, switch, and AP at the same time. This lets the customer upgrade APs or the switch at a later date without having to swap out the gateway.\n Aruba\nAruba SD-Branch integrates with best-of-breed security partners\nAruba did do a nice job consolidating functionality into its new gateway. Instead of retrofitting another product, the gateway was built from the ground up to meet the specific needs of an SD-Branch. It is a full-featured branch appliance with a complete set of SD-WAN capabilities, such as path control, QoS, and several security functions, including an application- and user-aware firewall and web content filtering.\nCustomers that require additional security functions can choose from one of Aruba\u2019s 140-plus tech partners \u2014 many of which are security partners \u2014\u00a0including Check Point, Palo Alto Networks, and newly added Z-Scaler, who is red hot coming off its successful IPO. Many of Aruba\u2019s security partners can exchange information with ClearPass, so policies can be made once and enforced by multiple vendors.\nIn addition to SD-WAN support, Central includes granular visibility, troubleshooting tools and an installer app that can be run from a mobile device. Through a combination of Aruba\u2019s Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) and mobile app, non-technical branch staff can turn up the infrastructure. This is much faster and more cost-effective than having to send a technical person on site and incur the cost of a truck roll. The mobile app is very slick and works by scanning the device.\nConsider the whole network not just specific places in the network\nMost SD-WAN solutions focus on WAN transport, but apps continue on inside the branch. Aruba\u2019s SD-Branch provides fine-grained contextual awareness and QoS across the WAN, but also inside the branch, and can be extended to mobile users.\u00a0 This is an important step in breaking down the management silos of remote\u00a0networks, in office, and WAN. Network engineers should think of the end-to-end network instead of discrete places. Apps don\u2019t care about network boundaries, and it\u2019s time for network operations to think that way, as well.\nApps don\u2019t care about network boundaries, and it\u2019s time for network operations to think that way, as well.\nFrom an operations perspective, Aruba\u2019s SD-Branch would enable IT organizations to manage more branches with fewer people. The automated capabilities and ZTP takes care of many of the tasks that were historically done manually. Aruba claims as much as a 75 percent reduction in operational expenses, which I believe could be attained given my research shows that over 80 percent of a network operation's time is used to simply keep the lights on.\nThe list pricing for Aruba\u2019s SD-Branch starts at $1,495 per gateway, with an additional software subscription of $450 per gateway per year. The gateways can be deployed without having to upgrade your switches or APs, making the solution almost plug and play. The product is currently in beta, with customer shipments starting in July of 2018.\nNote: Aruba is a client of ZK Research.