This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala's blog.

This week, Aruba Networks is holding its Atmosphere event in Las Vegas. Atmosphere is actually a collection of conferences – Airheads user event, Partner Summit, Investor day, and an IT Executive Forum – so it provided a great venue for Aruba to announce its Mobility Defined Networks (MDN) architecture. The primary driver of an MDN is the changes in network traffic and user behavior from the rise of GenMobile workers. If you aren’t familiar with GenMobile, it’s the term that Aruba has started to use as the set of workers that precede GenY, which preceded GenX.

The GenMobile demographic is comprised of individuals who are tied to their mobile device for everything in their lives. Previous generations augmented their lives with a mobile device, but GenMobile depends on it for everything from entertainment, their personal lives and, of course, their working lives. This is different than GenYers that relied on mobility to work at the office or at home. GenMobile-ers can be working or not working at any moment and any location. The mobile device is what makes this happen.

The truth is that mobility is evolving in a direction where more of use will take on the characteristics of GenMobile than not. That’s simply the path mobility is going down. The mobile phone is becoming the hub of everything in our lives. Today we can shop on it, look up information, and book airline tickets. In some countries, we can pay for parking, buy a soda or locate a subway station and pay for a ride all from our mobile device. During the demo portion of the keynote, Aruba showed the mobile device being used to open hotel doors and other use cases that are much closer that most realize.

As we become more reliant on these devices, the underlying architecture of the network must change to be more mobile centric, and that’s the underlying thesis behind Aruba’s MDN. I think the company’s CEO Dominic Orr said it best during his keynote when he finished off his presentation with the statement “people move and networks must follow.”

To support the MDN architecture, Aruba announced the following products at Atmosphere:

  • Advanced mobile firewall. Aruba’s mobility firewall uses the companies advanced deep-packet inspection capabilities to set granular policies that can be used to secure and prioritize over 1,500 applications, even if they are encrypted. This should give IT a higher level of control over mobile applications running on consumer devices, alleviating fears for some businesses by shifting to BYOD too rapidly.
  • Dashboard for Unified Communications (UC). Mobility has been one of the fastest-growing segments in the UC market over the past few years. UC is not just for the wired network now, as many businesses are running applications like Microsoft Lync over Wi-Fi. Aruba has beefed up its management tool, AirWave, to show both UC and network metrics in a single view. Network managers can use the tool to retrieve historical metrics and visualize the call quality across the entire network, leading to faster problem identification and remediation. I fully expect the GenMobile users to leverage the rich media capabilities of mobile devices as standard collaboration tools, making the UC dashboard an important tool to provide a high-quality, consistent user experience.
  • Auto Sign-On. ClearPass has been enhanced so when a user authenticates on the corporate Wi-Fi network the credentials are passed along to other applications. Alternatively, Aruba can integrate with many of the single-sign on applications already in use today.
  • ClearPass Exchange. This shifts ClearPass from being a product more to a platform for Aruba. ClearPass Exchange enables the automation of security workflows by leveraging a set of APIs that can create interoperability with third-party vendors. This ultimately allows for the streamlining of manual processes by removing the human latency involved in moving information between the various security and management tools.

Whether you want to call the next generation of workers GenMobile or something else, the trend towards being “mobile first” is well underway. Most Wi-Fi networks in businesses today were not designed to be the primary access network for businesses, so it was good to see Aruba pushing the concept of taking an architectural approach.

Many of the problems companies face with wireless today is the result of building an “ad hoc” network as the demand changed. This shift to 802.11ac, plus the new products Aruba has released, should allow the companies’ customers to build an intelligent wireless network that automates processes to meet the demands of GenMobile today.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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