Edge Solutions had the opportunity to attend the Aruba Atmosphere conference this year in Nashville. There’s a lot of exciting stuff on the horizon with Aruba! Of particular note was the new version of their controller-based wireless system, ArubaOS. ArubaOS 8 is a major shift in design and it introduces a lot of new features as a result—from sheer improvements in scalability and virtualization capabilities to new seamless failover and in-service upgrades.
ArubaOS 8 moves from custom-built hardware to a more conventional x86 platform, which opens up a lot of possibilities for the system. First, the conventional master controller role has changed to the new Mobility Master. The Mobility Master controls the entire WLAN and it can be virtualized, making deployment a lot more flexible. Local controllers serve as termination points for the APs and handle the control and data planes, and these controllers can now be virtualized as well.
This new architecture introduces seamless failover and hitless upgrades. Clients no longer have to de-auth and reconnect when a local controller fails. APs and clients can be also moved between local controllers to allow for rolling code upgrades without interruption of service. To prove that this actually works in practice, Aruba failed over the Gaylord hotel’s wireless system and then ran an upgrade during the keynote presentation at Atmosphere while more than 2,000 attendees were connected—and the video kept on streaming without issue. It was a very convincing and gutsy tech demo.
ArubaOS 8 introduces some new features as well, including new RF optimization technology with AirMatch, which uses machine learning to automatically generate an optimal view of the entire WLAN network. While flavors of Adaptive Radio Management are not new technology, they are often done today with a very limited view of the network as a whole…which can lead to less than optimal design decisions. In fact, I usually recommend placing a tight muzzle on ARM as a best practice for new installations. But by moving to the more scalable x86 hardware, Aruba can now take measurements across the entire WLAN and make more intelligent adjustments to the RF fabric.
NorthBound APIs are now built into the platform that allows collaboration with other IT systems. To show this in action, they demonstrated how these APIs can be used to pull network state information from the controller through Alexa and issuing commands to ClearPass via Siri. While I’m not sure I want Siri kicking users off my Wi-Fi (as she can barely help me navigate Atlanta), it was a good visualization of how the Aruba platform can now integrate with other systems.
Finally, APs can now support multizone configurations. In the past, APs would terminate to a single local controller— meaning that both guest-designated and internal networks would have to use the same controller hardware. Now the AP can be tied to multiple controllers simultaneously, meaning that the enterprise network can be sent to an internal controller with support for 802.1X and other services and the guest network can be tunneled to an entirely separate controller hosted in the DMZ. This adds another level of security and multitenancy to the ArubaOS system.
All of these features are included on top of Aruba’s existing core technologies—ClientMatch, AppRF, AirGroup, RFProtect, Clarity, and more.
In addition to the ArubaOS 8 platform upgrades there were several other exciting announcements made at Atmosphere. New machine learning capabilities are being deployed with the Niara and Rasa acquisitions, APs can now take advantage of the Unified codebase for more flexibility, management platforms are being expanded and improved, new wireless standards are being developed that promise improved performance for high-density deployments, and even new RFID tracking tags are being introduced into the Meridian portfolio.
Stay tuned for more blog posts to come around these developments. We’ll be sure to keep a close eye on Aruba in 2017 and we’re excited to help our clients take advantage of this new technology.
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