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Scalability, security, data management, smart automation, and tailored offerings define evolving networking trends for SMBs: Amol Mitra, HPE Aruba Networking

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Express Computer had the opportunity to have an exclusive interaction with Amol Mitra, Global Vice President & General Manager, Small and Midsize Business, HPE Aruba Networking in his recent trip to India, where he sheds light on the company’s strategic approach towards doubling down on the SMB business. With a focus on expanding its WiFi, cloud management, and switching portfolio, HPE Aruba Networking aims to address the evolving needs of SMBs while effectively managing associated risks.

Can you elaborate on HPE Aruba Networking’s strategy for doubling down on the SMB business, particularly in expanding its WiFi, cloud management, and switching portfolio?

Since the acquisition of Aruba, our strategic focus has evolved significantly. Aruba, primarily targeting the enterprise sector, prompted us to pivot towards Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMBs) to cultivate a traditional yet sustainable business model via channel partners. This deliberate shift towards a customer segment served through resellers and channel partners has proven fruitful over the past five years.

Our rationale behind targeting the SMB segment stems from the striking similarity in their requirements to those of enterprise-level customers. Whether it’s security concerns, cloud adoption, or the proliferation of IoT and other devices, the underlying needs remain consistent. However, the distinguishing factor lies in scale and ease of deployment, given that SMBs typically lack dedicated IT staff. Consequently, the features essential for this class of product differ, but the core needs remain unchanged.

Thus, we embarked on a journey five years ago to cater specifically to the SMB market under the Aruba umbrella, establishing a distinct brand identity: HPE Aruba Instant On. This nomenclature reflects our commitment to providing products that are instantly configurable, manageable, and deployable.

Recognising the unique landscape of the SMB space, we meticulously crafted a product portfolio centred around three core value propositions: simplicity, security, and smart automation. From Wi-Fi solutions to switching products, all manageable through a mobile app on a cloud-based platform, our aim was to deliver tailor-made solutions to meet the needs of SMBs.

The trajectory of our SMB-focused business has been remarkably positive, with year-over-year doubling of our business. This exceptional traction underscores the efficacy of our approach, prompting us to double down on our investments in this segment. Leveraging the heritage of the HPE Procurve brand, which catered to SMB customers pre-Aruba acquisition, we are revitalising our efforts to serve this market segment.

Having previously overseen this business pre-Aruba acquisition, we possess a deep understanding of the SMB marketplace. It’s this first-hand experience coupled with our recent successes that fuel our commitment to further invest and expand within this segment.

What specific network challenges do SMBs face today, and how is HPE Aruba Networking addressing these challenges within its portfolio?

So, to encapsulate the key points at a high level, there are three significant areas of focus and challenge for SMBs. Firstly, SMBs are seeking the same features and functionalities as enterprise customers, particularly in terms of cloud adoption and security. Secondly, there’s a growing need to manage a multitude of devices at scale, including IoT devices and end devices. And the third one, there’s a demand for hardened enterprise-grade security within the SMB space, reflecting the increased importance of cybersecurity, especially in the post-COVID era.

We’ve closely examined these three areas and devised strategic solutions to address them. First and foremost is simplicity. We’ve ensured that our products are incredibly user-friendly, with a one-click configuration and deployment process. Our aim is to eliminate complexity through automation and intuitive features, making deployment as easy as brewing a cup of coffee or popping popcorn.

Next, let’s talk about security. We’ve taken enterprise-grade security features and tailored them for the SMB market. This means that SMBs can access the same level of security technology that larger enterprises utilise, including advanced protocols like WPA and RADIUS.

Lastly, scalability is paramount. Our product portfolio spans from small 2X2 Wi-Fi access points to larger 4X4 models, accommodating the varying needs of SMBs as they expand their operations. For instance, our Smart Mesh technology allows for seamless wireless connectivity between multiple access points, reducing the need for extensive cabling infrastructure.

We’ve tackled the challenges of cloud migration, security, and scalability head-on by offering innovative solutions within our product lineup, ensuring that SMBs can navigate the complexities of modern technology with ease and confidence.

With SMBs increasingly focusing on leveraging network technology for business advantages like security enhancement, customer experience improvement, and employee productivity, how does HPE Aruba Networking support them in achieving these goals?

Our go-to-market strategy revolves around driving product sales through our channel partners exclusively. We firmly believe that their success is intricately linked to ours, which is why we’ve tailored our products to be channel-friendly.

In terms of support, whether it’s pre-sales or post-sales, our channel partners are at the forefront, providing support to their customers. To illustrate, consider a small mall with multiple stores, managed by a property manager who, in turn, collaborates with a service provider. These are the individuals who offer support for our products to end-users. In cases where they may require additional assistance, we offer service packs wherein an HPE Aruba Networking professional can step in to provide support.

Our Foundation Care pack extends post-sales service for their customers. Therefore, our primary support line lies with our channel partners, while they also have the option to rely on HPE Aruba Networking for additional support if needed.

AI, particularly GenAI, is currently a highly discussed topic. Are you leveraging its benefits in any way?

Absolutely, it’s an excellent question. As I mentioned earlier, we have previously introduced a technology called HPE Procurve, and as we transition into the HPE Aruba Instant ON portfolio, the foundation of automation traces back to Gen AI, which is rooted in AI. Now, imagine the capability where you can accomplish configuration with just one click, receive support with a single click, or easily toggle applications like Facebook for your children’s devices, all from anywhere, anytime. This foundational capability stems from the AI infrastructure embedded within our products, whether it’s the cloud-managed portal, access points, or switches. Each component collaborates seamlessly to provide proactive engagement, configuration, management, and support. This engine has been part of our legacy for many years, and we’ve continuously built upon it to enhance our offerings.

Considering the evolving landscape of networks as a competitive tool for SMBs, what trends do you foresee shaping the future of networks in this segment?

The trends are similar to what we just discussed, with one focusing on scalability for SMBs. It’s not just about adding employees but expanding their business footprint, possibly across different cities or towns, especially seen during and post-COVID. As these SMBs grow, their operations extend beyond their initial location, emphasising the importance of scalability. In response, we’ve developed a portfolio comprising outdoor and indoor access points, facilitating expansion to different cities with multi tenancy support.

Security stands out as another significant trend, encompassing both physical and virtual aspects. Whether it’s guarding against malware, bolstering firewall capabilities, or enhancing gateway functionality, our focus is on fortifying the marketplace’s security infrastructure. We’re advocating for security to be ingrained rather than retrofitted, eliminating the need for additional appliances. By embedding security features directly into our products, we aim to streamline the security landscape, sparing customers the hassle of acquiring yet another appliance solely for security purposes.

The proliferation of devices and data is undeniable. With video streaming and data volumes set to surge, catering to SMBs’ needs becomes paramount. Our goal is to ensure that data remains accessible, structured, and manageable for SMBs, even in the absence of dedicated IT personnel. This entails offering automation solutions that facilitate quick integration and empower SMBs to navigate complex data environments effortlessly.

Vertical integration emerges as another key trend, particularly in the context of smart automation. How can disparate devices like CCTV cameras and Ring doorbells seamlessly interact within a unified solution ecosystem? AI plays a pivotal role here, enabling automation and intelligence to flourish. As the demand for smarter solutions grows, we’re poised to leverage AI to drive innovation and enhance user experiences.

In a country like India, where SMBs comprise 83% of the business landscape, our product portfolio aligns perfectly. This market focus has propelled our success in India, motivating frequent engagement and investment in its growth trajectory. The thriving market opportunity and our tailored product offerings position us for continued success, and I’m excited to further expand our presence and impact in India’s dynamic SMB sector.

What digital or tech initiatives do you have planned for the next six to 12 months?

To be honest, our activities in the SMB sphere are entirely digital nowadays. Whether it’s our marketing assets, campaigns, partner communications, or product deliveries, everything operates within a digital framework. The trend toward digitisation is unmistakable. While adoption in India may take time as infrastructure improves, the trajectory mirrors what has already occurred in the US. We’re essentially replicating this digital transformation model in India.

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