09 Jul HPE Aruba And Its Secret Competitive Weapon
HPE Aruba logo. WILL TOWNSEND
Before I was a tech analyst, I spent many years in product marketing at Dell , Compaq, and HP , on both the consumer and enterprise sides of the business. As such, I tend to geek out on technology. Naturally, I jumped at the invitation to tour Hewlett Packard Enterprise ‘s Aruba test lab facility in beautiful Roseville, California back in late June. Tom Black, VP & GM of the Aruba Campus and Branch business unit, and several of his senior managers guided me through the massive 65,000 square foot facility. Today I would like to share my experience and insights gleaned from the visit.
The concept of “fast quality” seems like an oxymoron on the surface. Oftentimes, in the rush to bring technology to market certain issues are overlooked and products are released in beta. It then falls to customers to help with the debugging process. That’s not the case with HPE and the Aruba product development team, who utilize testing to not only bring products to market faster but also to deliver higher quality solutions. Aruba employs a rigorous testing framework and sophisticated tools, including a dynamic, drag-and-drop, software-based test bed that allows engineers across five locations in Roseville, Santa Clara, Bangalore, Singapore and Costa Rica to continuously test regardless of time zone. The overall goal is to discover bugs before they are released into the “wild.” The company also utilizes defect prediction analysis and vulnerability tracking notification (VTN) to further fine-tune product quality. VTN enables the various Aruba support channels to provide customer data quickly and proactively around possible vulnerabilities, addressing them before they become a problem. That’s very different from traditional product support models that are reactive in troubleshooting—only addressing problems after they occur.
Ultimately, these efforts result in both faster customer adoption, time to revenue, and profitability for Aruba. Case in point: the Aruba team told me that most of its largest customers deploy “rev 0” products, based on their confidence in Aruba. From my exposure to large enterprise technology deployments and conversations with IT and network administrators, I can say that this is an impressive statistic. All too often, these staffers are conservative and take a very cautious approach with the introduction of new products—often waiting for future revisions before wide-scale deployment.
Scale matters in the technology industry, whether it lies in supply chain leverage, lower cost components, or product development, where fixed costs can be amortized over large volumes. The same can be said for testing, and Aruba leverages massive scale. Among the proof points are 6 million lines of available test code, an average of 500,000 test cases executed per quarter, and a financial investment in the hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment and in the facility itself. In fact, Aruba opens its facilities to other companies for testing and quality assurance (reaping the financial benefit in return, I’m certain).
From my perspective, the value in HPE Aruba’s scale lies in the company’s ability to simulate nearly any environment and integrate non-Aruba gear to ensure interoperability. These simulations span verticals such as banking, healthcare, and military, as well as highly-complex, massive, decentralized network environments. Most of Aruba’s test capabilities are also certified for stringent global regulatory requirements for emissions, power, safety, and recyclability. This points to both the sophistication and maturity of Aruba’s test capabilities, which nearly eliminates the need to outsource testing. Outsourcing testing can increase the overall product development process and, given the added expense, lower margins.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to spend considerable time with the HPE Aruba team and senior management, including CMO Janice Le and CTO Partha Narasimhan, at both the Aruba Atmosphere event and HPE Discover. If you’re interested in my insights from those events, you can find the articles here and here. My visit to the HPE Aruba Roseville facility only further fleshed out the Aruba picture for me.
Before my visit to the facility, I didn’t realize how critical a role testing plays in the overall product development process. As a former product manager at Compaq, I often regarded product testing as a checkbox item. I’ve had a change of heart. Tom Black and his team clearly demonstrated the competitive advantages of product testing, namely in regards to improved overall quality and quicker time-to-market. Many companies pay lip service to quality, but HPE Aruba considers it a core principle of its stated mission: to design, develop, and test products to achieve a near-zero defect while delivering innovations fast and at scale. Aruba’s continued growth is outpacing the industry at large—I would conclude this philosophy seems to be working.