Aruba Networks Wireless WAN Review

Allows you to easily scale your network infrastructure to support thousands of remote users

What is our primary use case?

We've built out a new office and we use Aruba as our wireless system. Regular workers at our company use it. 

We built the office for about 500 seats. In the end, it should be able to seat roughly 500 people. If each person has at least three devices, that's close to 1500 devices on the network. That's the capacity that we're planning to use.

How has it helped my organization?

I'm coming from a Meraki environment, which was also cloud-based. I feel that Aruba allows for more flexibility when it comes to configuration and deployment. Aruba gives you the same feeling as using a controller on-prem, whereas Meraki seems to be hiding a lot of the configuration behind the scenes and forces you to actually call them and ask them to enable certain features. So far, using Aruba Central is more like using an actual controller based on the amount of configuration you can do.

Meraki just came out with profiles, but as far as I know, they don't have profiles for how your device connects to the actual physical LAN. They might have that now, or maybe with some of their devices that have multiple interfaces, but with Aruba, I could actually set up different interfaces on the actual access points depending on how they're connected to my network. This is an example of the granularity of the configurations that they allow you to configure.

Because it gives me more ability as an engineer to design the network, I'm hoping that it's going to be a little bit more predictable based on the fact that I have more features that I can change or set.

What is most valuable?

It's hard to say to be honest. I just started working through all of the different features they have. It's just up and running right now; we haven't finished really fully-configuring it. So far, I like the way that it integrates with the ClearPass security system on-site. It's just an authentication engine. Also, the web GUI for the wireless controller of Aruba Central provides us with a lot of different options. We can do a lot more with it than we could with Meraki. 

What needs improvement?

Not too long ago, Aruba was purchased by Hewlett-Packard. They must be still going through the integration because their websites are not really integrated together well, so it makes it hard to find documentation. I'm assuming it's going to get better, but right now, the integration between the support that you are getting from Hewlett-Packard, which is the parent company, and Aruba, they're not meshing together. That's one problem that I found. 

Aruba Central, because it's cloud-based (you're going to have this all the time with cloud-based solutions), there's going to be some sort of a lag between what you're seeing on the screen and what you're experiencing on-site.

With Aruba, you have more ability to see what's going on, but because you have more ability to see what's going on, it exacerbates the physical distance and the time-distance between what you're seeing in the cloud, and what you're seeing on-site. For example, they have a lot of tools for dynamic channel and power-out allocation. When you're dealing with something on-site, what you're seeing is more real-time. Maybe as I get used to working with Aruba, I'll be able to get in sync with what's happening in real-time, and with what I'm actually seeing on the product and the cloud.

For how long have I used the solution?

This is a new deployment so I've only been using it for roughly six to eight weeks.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability and the scalability are both good.

How are customer service and technical support?

The customer support is pretty good. 

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is as straightforward as you want it to be. To get it mostly set up didn't take that long, but to get it the way that you want it to be can take a little longer. For me, because I'm new to this service (not wireless infrastructure, but Aruba in general), the initial setup is pretty quick, but to get it fine-tuned, it takes a long time.

What about the implementation team?

We have done most of the implementation, in-house. We have a sales rep that we call upon, but we're just using general support, that's about it.

As we're still currently in the process of deployment, I can't say exactly how long it takes. As this whole office is brand new, we hired people to run the cables and actually mount them. We didn't actually do the physical install of all these APs.

Two employees (including myself) handle all maintenance-related issues with this solution.

What was our ROI?

Overall, I think Aruba Central will produce a good return on our investment.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I don't know much about the licensing, but you license the APs to be able to use or to be configured in Aruba Central. I don't know how much it costs but I believe it's on a yearly- basis.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated Cisco Meraki again, and we also looked at Ruckus — in reality, we just read some of their documentation. We settled with Aruba because it seemed like it had more security features.

What other advice do I have?

I only have experience with the controller-less environment, which is Aruba Central. When I do searches on Google, most of the information regarding that is for a controller-based or controller-less. I think Aruba Central is a newer way of deploying this solution, so because of that, there seems to be less information for it.

I would probably recommend talking to your representatives in order to get as much information about Aruba Central as you can before investing in it. If you can use a controller, it could be better or easier to find out information and learn how to configure it. 

On a scale from one to ten, I would give Aruba Central a rating of eight. If they improved their documentation and the other issues I mentioned, then I would give it a rating of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Private Cloud
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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