Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, has introduced Aruba ESP(Edge Services Platform), the industry’s first AI-powered, cloud-native platform that predicts and resolves problems at the network edge before they happen. Sherifa Hady, EMEA Channel Sales Director at Aruba, explains the new product and how it will help channel partners.
Could you explain more about the new platform?
The platform that we have is architecture that we have been working on for many years. Basically, it is a single pane of glass that brings a lot of things together. First of all, usually as a network administrator you have to manage different networks and different siloes, especially if they are on different technologies. One of the great benefits of ESP is that it has AIOps, so it can bring multi-tenants, multi-technologies all together onto this single pane. It also does some preventive maintenance. It uses AI just to understand what is happening in the network, just to make it easier for the network administrator or the network manager to make sure there are no potential issues coming for the users, so AIOps is one big thing.
The second thing is, like I mentioned, it is a unified infrastructure, so it is open, so multi-vendor, multi-tenant, campus, branch, data centre, whatever your network is or wherever it is, we can bring it all together into this one platform, seeing it all together.
The last thing, which is very important to everyone, is the Zero Trust or the security element – just making sure that everything is secure and that there is additional security on it.
For partners, the benefit is that they can buy a licence and change it depending on their customers, which I see as a key differentiator versus some of the other solutions out there where you have to buy a licence per customer. For the partner, it is very scalable for them. It makes their life easier.
What has the response been like so far from channel partners?
We have launched the Managed Services Programme, which is around managed services and the benefits that we give to the partners. We have had an overwhelming response so far. Over 100 partners have said that they are interested to sign up. So, this is part of the programme where they act as managed services and, of course, if you want to be providing managed services you need to have a platform or solution to do that. We are expecting that partners will be really excited about it [ESP], as much as we are.
What sort of demand are you experiencing from channel partners?
All the partners that I have met and that we have in our roster, everyone is thinking about how they are going to evolve and how they are going to transform themselves into managed services. Providing a service is obviously the future of our resellers as well as our distributors. I think the interest is there. I think because we are offering different flavours, either we provide the service or they provide the service, I think it is going to be easier for the partners to decide which way they want to go and when.
How will it be used day-to-day across different industries?
Keerti, our Co-Founder, at the beginning of 2020, before all this happened, said that 2020 is the year of the edge, and indeed everyone is working at the edge. There are more and more devices that are connected outside of the data centre. And with more and more devices connected, you need to make sure these devices are secure and can connect at the speed you would like them to. I think, just looking at today, at the environment we are in, every single industry will need this.
We have retail outlets that are now doing the click and collect where you have to do a pop-up delivery or you have schools where you have teachers that are working from home and need to connect. I don’t think there is an industry that wouldn’t need such a platform, especially today.
How are you going to be training channel partners to use the product?
What we are doing is, we have a lot of enablement sessions that we have had before, around Aruba Central and what we are trying to do is what we call a ‘Go Orange’. It is a partner enablement half-an-hour tech talk which speaks about the different solutions that we have. We will be doing a lot more training for all of our partners and we want to make sure that all of them are trained and certified to be able to provide this service to the customer.
One of the things around MSP, which is the core part of the programme, is access to the training and enablement around MSP, which obviously includes the ESP part as well.
How does the channel structure work in enabling the end user to understand the technology?
It differs from country to country but we have System Engineers (SEs) – some of them are predominantly focused on the end user. Then we have some Channel SEs. In some countries we have the luxury of having both, in some countries we only have one that kind of does both. The role of the SEs is to look at the architecture of the infrastructure the customer has today, and to be able to go and advise them or give them consultative information about what they could do in the future. We also have the Channel SEs, like I said in the bigger regions. These are the SEs that are focused on the channel and they do exactly the same – they make sure that the channel is up-to-date and aware of our solutions so they can go and do the same with our customers.
ATM Digital is a big event where we also expect the customers to be able to go through the different tracks to see whether they want to go down a technical route or an industry route. And so, our role is to keep our customers informed at all times as well of anything that is new.
How did Aruba mange to use AI first in a solution like this?
I think I take it back to Keerti, our Co-Founder. He has always been very conscious of what we can do to improve the lives of our users. HPE’s slogan is ‘We do advance the way people work and live’ and that is our objective at the end of the day. Keerti has always believed in ‘What can we do to make the lives of our users easier?’. One of the examples of that is the openness of our solutions. You can use multi-vendors, it doesn’t always have to be Aruba. It can be any other vendor.
In terms of AI, this is through either products we have acquired or technologies we have brought throughout the years. It is the research we have done through all the networks we have managed just to bring up this AI. A lot of companies have talked about AI from the beginning of the year and it’s time we see them in action.
What technology trends do you see happening in the future?
If we look at five years ago, we had partners that were resellers, and if you really dissect that name, reseller means that you resell a product, you might add some things here or there, you might add an accessory, some software apps, but at the end of the day you were reselling a product.
Five years down the line, I think less than 40% of the channel partners will be resellers. I think more than 50% will be a service provider, meaning that they provide a service, regardless of the technology. I think even our distributors today and in all of the discussions we are having with our distributors, they are also having to rethink how they are going to distribute products. In the old days, the reseller will go and buy from a distributor a product, pick it up, do a system integration and sell it.
Now, if it is a service being provided by the vendor, specifically like in GreenLake for example, what is the role of the distributor? With that in mind, what we are thinking is – how do we have to change the structure of us internally to be more of a ‘service provider’ channel organisation rather than a ‘reseller’ channel organisation. That means what kind of people do we have to be able to talk the same language, what kind of rebates do we need to be able to give to our partners, what kind of certifications should they have? This is something we are talking about on a worldwide level.