Aruba Networking Unveils Wi-Fi 7

This syndicated post originally appeared at Network Computing.

The new HPE Aruba 730 series Wi-Fi 7 access points tout high performance, enhanced security, location tracking capabilities, and more.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) a subsidiary of Aruba Networks rolled out new Wi-Fi 7 access points (APs). The new 730 series APs are designed to significantly improve wireless network performance and security, especially for enterprises using advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Wi-Fi 7 is based on the IEEE 802.11be standard for those unfamiliar with the latest Wi-Fi specification and offers the following improvements over previous standards.

  • Higher data rates. Wi-Fi 7 has a maximum data rate of over 30 Gbps, significantly higher than the 9.6 Gbps of Wi-Fi 6 and 6E. This is accomplished through more efficient spectrum utilization, higher order modulation (4096-QAM), and additional improvements in channel bonding and MIMO capabilities.
  • Improved latency. Wi-Fi 7 reduces the latency on wireless networks, making it suitable for real-time gaming, AR/VR, and video apps. The new standard introduces features such as multi-link operations (MLO), which allows devices to transmit data across multiple bands (2.4, 5, and 6 GHz) simultaneously and dynamically allocate traffic to the fastest link.
  • Better spectrum utilization. Wi-Fi 7 supports 320 MHz channels in the 6 GHz band, compared to 160 MHz with 6/6E. This allows more data to be transmitted, improving throughput and network efficiency.

The 730 series is managed through Aruba Central, a cloud-based platform that simplifies network and IoT management. The solution eliminates the need for separate IoT networks by supporting various communication standards directly within the APs, including protocols like Zigbee and Bluetooth. Additionally, the APs come with dual USB ports to accommodate industrial and manufacturing environments. These ports allow specialized devices to connect directly to the APs, supporting backhaul and overlay networks.

One of the standout features of the 730 series is its energy efficiency. The APs can operate at full capacity on just 24 watts of power, under the typical power allocation per port. This is crucial in geographical areas where energy costs are high. Moreover, new software features available through Aruba Central put the APs in a deep sleep mode during off hours, reducing power consumption significantly to only two watts.

Addressing Wi-Fi network security issues

Currently, there is a diverse mix of devices using Wi-Fi 6, 5, and the emerging Wi-Fi 7, with substantial increases in Wi-Fi 7 devices anticipated by 2028. Enterprises are future-proofing their network infrastructure to accommodate this growth and ensure compatibility across Wi-Fi standards. However, security remains a major concern. The rise of generative AI poses new challenges, as hackers can use it to exploit network vulnerabilities. On top of that, the convergence of IoT and operational technology (OT) is leading to an influx of devices on Wi-Fi networks, posing security risks.

HPE Aruba introduced several security enhancements in the 730 series to address these challenges. The APs have several layers of security to protect against external and internal threats. Features like policy-based access control, Layer 7 application firewalls, and media access control security (MACsec) help secure networks by monitoring and controlling access and encrypting data transmission. Additionally, the APs provide enhanced IoT visibility and segmentation, assigning roles to users and IoT devices for secure, segmented network access.

“On the switching side, we’re seeing increased demand for things like MACsec (a security protocol that provides encryption at the link level). But you don’t have to have MACsec enabled to use this AP. It’s merely a security add-on,” said Madani Adjali, vice president of product management at HPE Aruba, in a pre-briefing.

In terms of performance, the new APs are built to handle a high volume of wireless traffic, providing up to 30 percent more capacity than other products on the market. They utilize HPE’s ultra tri-band hardware technology, which optimizes using 5 and 6 GHz bands to reduce interference. This supports a heavier load of devices and more data-intensive applications. Additionally, the APs feature enhanced data processing capabilities. They have twice as much synchronous dynamic random-access memory (SDRAM) and Flash memory as previous models to run application-specific containers directly on the APs.

While most existing APs operate at one gigabit (Gb), the 730 series APs have dual 5 Gb Ethernet interfaces. The introduction of 5 Gb interfaces caters to evolving technology needs, helping enterprises prepare for future network demands and higher data throughput. However, organizations updating to newer Wi-Fi standards might install these advanced APs at new sites while upgrading their wired infrastructure. As is often the case, “wireless advancements precede updates to wired networks,” said Adjali.

“Even in the wired space, few devices ever get near 50 percent of that one gig pipe. As more devices are leveraging 6 GHz, that possibility is certainly there, but it’s not going to happen tomorrow. So, this is more about future-proofing for when the time comes to enhance the wired edge,” Adjali added.

Advanced features abound

Lastly, the 730 series includes advanced location tracking capabilities that provide accuracy up to one meter. This high level of precision is essential for apps that require exact location information, such as asset tracking in industrial settings or creating immersive user experiences in public venues, Adjali explained. The APs also support the IEEE 802.11az standard to enable self-location networks, and they have additional features like a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver for asset tracking and a barometric sensor for floor-level mapping.

The 730 series APs will be globally available in July 2024. HPE Aruba will showcase the new capabilities at HPE Discover + Atmosphere 2024, which will take place in Las Vegas June 18-20. During the conference, a Wi-Fi 7 network consisting of approximately 220 APs will be put to the test in a dynamic public setting with over 10,000 attendees. This will trial the APs in real-world conditions and demonstrate what’s possible in modern networking.

Author: 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.