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Aruba Moves Wireless Management to the Cloud

The whole point of having a wireless enterprise infrastructure is to increase mobility and reduce cables. Yet for many enterprises, managing those wireless LANs (WLANs) requires an on-site server. Wireless networking vendor Aruba Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ: ARUN) is now aiming to change the wireless management paradigm with a new cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering.

The company's new SaaS solution is called AirWave OnDemand (AoD) and provides a cloud-based version of the AirWave Wireless Management Suite (AWMS) to remotely monitor and manage enterprise WLANs.

The move is seen by Aruba execs as one of the final steps needed to help enterprises "cut the cord" with their wired networks, and to ensure more end-to-end wireless infrastructure.

"In terms of adoption, our goal is to remove all the tethers that connect users to wired networks and then to streamline all the operations management of the resulting systems," Mike Tennefoss, head of strategic marketing for Aruba, told InternetNews.com.

Until now, the way that Aruba offered its customer WLAN management was by of its AirWave Wireless Management Suite (AWMS), which requires enterprises to host the software within their own datacenters.

It's a model that has worked well for some companies in Aruba's target market -- but not all.

"What we've noticed over the last six to 12 months is that more and more of the enterprise market space is adopting WLAN as either their primary network access method or as a mission-critical piece of their network access that they put out to end users," Bryan Wargo, general manager of Aruba's Airwave division, told InternetNews.com. "Unfortunately, many medium-sized enterprises don't have the skill sets or the time to procure traditional enterprise software and servers to host management in their own datacenters."

On the back end, the way the in-the-cloud wireless management offering works is all about using standard networking protocols and some virtualization.

Wargo explained that once a user places an order for the service, they get an authorization code. That code gets entered on the Aruba site, which then automates the process to spin-up a virtual instance of the software, so each enterprise gets its own unique instance. Users can then log into the management console using a Web interface.

Getting the actual WLAN connected to the cloud involves having the enterprise set up a VPN connection from its network to Aruba. Once the VPN connection is enabled, the AoD service then uses standard management protocols like SSH and SNMP to manage the WLAN.

Once connected, AoD users can manage and monitor WLAN settings and devices as well as generate usage and compliance reports.

The AoD offering isn't limited to Aruba's own access points and wireless controllers, either. Wargo said the service can manage WLAN equipment from multiple vendors including Cisco, HP and Motorola, among others.

"We've been working over the last six to 12 months to remove as many barriers as possible for organization to move to wireless as their primary access method," Wargo said.

He added that Aruba first went after solving the wireless remote branch connectivity issue earlier this year. In May, the company rolled out a Linux-powered solution for securing remote Virtual Branch Networks (VBN).

"The last hurdle is the operational hurdle -- there just isn't enough knowledge out there about how to operate WLANs, and we're bringing that management to the market with the SaaS model," Wargo said.

"I don't think that this journey is over, but we think with our recent announcements, we've removed barriers and made it easier to adopt wireless."