Aruba VBN 2.0 Puts Branch Offices In The Cloud

Mar 30, 2010 (03:03 PM EDT)

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It seemed almost too simple to be true: use the cloud to bring business-critical IT services to branches, avoid the hassle of complex routers and switches, and save a ton of money in the process. But that's what Aruba Networks has done with its Virtual Branch Networking 2.0 solution, announced Tuesday.

It's not quite that simple, of course, but the rough outline of Aruba's VBN 2.0 solution does get the connection job done for small branch and home offices by using cloud solutions.

"In the past, computing intensive multifunction gateways with all kinds of routing including VoIP worked well, but it was very expensive," said Aruba's chief executive officer Hitesh Sheth in an interview. "The old way was expensive and it was difficult to manage. It was fine for a limited number of branches."

Aruba's VBN 2.0, which is upgradable from its VBN 1.0 release, is centralized in the cloud -- either a private or public cloud -- and is not only less complex than previous ways of linking central IT operations to branches and home offices, but it can reach roaming workers, too. Sheth says the fixed worker using narrowband is a phenomenon of the past as workers become more nomadic, yet need robust access.

"Branch routing as we've known it for the last 15 years is dead," says Sheth. Gone, too, is the need for IT managers to schedule branch upgrades every three years.

Of course, Aruba isn't the first LAN provider to think of using the cloud, but the firm hopes it has a head start. Its 2009 VBN launch was meant to rightsize the cost of branch office networking with the introduction of a family of Remote Access Points (RAPS) that were low-cost and capable of being managed from central locations.

Aruba's new approach has some important features paced by its cloud-based Application Acceleration Service (AAS), which speeds up e-mail service, Web browsing, and file sharing applications -- all carried out without new hardware or software. Nearby or associated data centers use Aruba's Content Delivery Network (CDN) to speed up application response times in branch offices on an as-needed basis. CDN is a subscription-based file caching service.

What about security?

VBN 2.0 features a Content Security Service (CSS) -- in the cloud, naturally " which provides traditional anti-virus/anti-spam protection as well as real-time content filtering and data leakage prevention. "Files are encrypted from the time they leave the user," Sheth noted.

Michael Tennefoss, Aruba's head of strategic marketing, said the new offering will represent an important new place for mobile work forces. He observed that as 802.11n gains acceptance as a wireless solution, the increased use of Ethernet is beginning to fade. "We say: 'Use 11n where you can, but use Ethernet where you must.'"

Tennefoss said 11n is well suited for branch and home office use as well as for mobile workers because of its capability to handle many ports at one time. He added that Aruba's studies found that as many as 30 to 40% of Ethernet posts were often unused.

"Traditional branch routers weren't designed with mobility and broadband in mind," said Sheth, "and their high cost and complexity makes them impractical for addressing the needs of today's distributed enterprise."

Sheth claims that Aruba's VBN 2.0, properly installed, can rightsize capital expenditures by up to 60% and operating expenses by as much as 75%.