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Aruba's AI strategy cuts the backchat, talks network automation instead

What's NaaS? Whatever customers need it to be

HPE's networking limb Aruba has taken the bold step of releasing some news about AI that doesn't involve a chatbot.

Now known as HPE Aruba Networking, the packet-pushing outfit has imbued its cloudy network management service, Network Central, with more AI, powered by the ever-growing dataset derived from watching customers' networks. HPE has analyzed operational data of its customer networks and storage rigs for at least a decade, and has long since talked up the virtue of the product-improving insights it derives from that effort.

The difference this time around is that Aruba has noticed that it is hard to hire expert networking talent, yet networks now use multiple wired and wireless techs. Aruba has therefore tuned machine learning models to figure out what tech generalists need to know about their network and then help them automate the necessary actions, because it's assumed the nuances of networks may elude many paid to tend them.

"We are going from informing and recommending to full automation," Aruba VP for solutions Larry Lunetta told The Register. As such, Network Central uses AI to watch for network configurations that diverge from known baselines, then suggests changes.

The tool can also detect the fingerprints of connected devices, especially internet of things widgets, and then offers the chance to apply policy.

Recognizing that some humans find it hard to digest this stuff, Aruba has also created new visualizations to depict the state of a network. Another addition is "network time travel" that allows a replay of seven days' status of an organization's network devices, at minute by minute granularity, so that users can understand the impact of business events on the network.

Does that sound like it's worth waiting for? It had better be – Aruba will announce this stuff at its Atmosphere gabfest today, but it won't debut until Q4 calendar 2023.

If you want to start writing checks to Aruba sooner than that, you'll need to talk to it about networks-as-a-service (NaaS).

Lunetta admitted that NaaS is harder to define than PaaS, IaaS or SaaS: is it elastic networks, or leased kit, or networks provided by a third party, or networks administered by a third party? Is it on-prem, or cloudy?

Aruba has decided it's all of the above, and whatever else you want it to be. The company has therefore decided to sell NaaS however you want it: buying hardware but subscribing to software, or subscribing to both.

This is apparently "Agile NaaS" and Aruba thinks it's alone in offering it, especially as it doesn't require any current kit to be replaced.

The Register put it to Lunetta that vendors tend to do whatever it takes to seal a deal with a prospect or customer, so Agile NaaS is just a name for what sales teams do to get a signature.

He didn't disagree. "This is not a SKU or a product, this is a way to have a conversation between the business and us," Lunetta said. ®

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