Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Aruba networking unit has introduced a new line of small business access points.
Due to reach market next month, the Instant On product family is the vendor’s first set of APs specifically targeted at companies with up to 100 employees, according to Lissa Hollinger, Aruba’s vice president of product and solutions marketing.
“It has been designed from the ground up to address small business,” she says.
The portfolio includes four indoor access points, three ceiling-mounted units and one desktop or wall-mounted device. A fifth SKU is designed for outdoor use.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest in this from hospitality [businesses] such as restaurants that have an outdoor café, or a small boutique hotel that wants to provide Wi-Fi access out by the pool,” Hollinger says.
In addition to hotels and restaurants, target markets for the Instant On family include independent retailers, medical practices, and other professional offices. “They need to be able to provide Wi-Fi to their guests and customers, because effectively Wi-Fi connectivity has become table stakes,” says Hollinger, adding that small businesses increasingly view reliable broadband connectivity as a potential source of competitive advantage as well.
“Just like their larger counterparts, they’re looking to embrace technology in order to attract and retain new customers, and attract and retain employees,” she says.
The Instant On line also arrives at a time when many small businesses are upgrading their outdated IT infrastructure. According to data from Spiceworks, in fact, 68% of small businesses will invest in replacing legacy hardware this year.
All five devices in the new product family are optimized for easy installation. “We’ve really been focused on insuring that we’re delivering a simple solution, recognizing that generally speaking small businesses do not have IT staff,” Hollinger says. Users can manage the new systems through either a cloud-based portal or a new mobile app. Smart mesh functionality aims to make adding an access point to an existing network a one-touch process.
“You install the first access point, connect it to a switch or to a router, and then when you install the subsequent access points or plug them into power they are automatically recognized by the mobile app,” Hollinger says.
To address ever-escalating security concerns among small business buyers, Instant On access points include a firewall, intrusion detection capabilities, and other built-in safeguards at no additional charge. “Our competitors require a separate gateway, and a costly gateway at that, if you want to get the additional security features,” Hollinger says.
Security isn’t the only area in which the Instant On portfolio spares users from hidden fees, she continues. “There are no subscription costs, there’s no licensing cost for the software, and in fact when we introduce new software updates we will automatically push those software updates to the network, or the access points, at no cost.”
The new devices come with 90 days of free 24/7 phone support and a full year of chat support as well, and are backed by a one-year warranty.
Aruba plans to introduce a new website for Instant On users that will be independent of its existing user community portal. “Most of the conversations within that community are quite technical in nature and really more relevant to enterprise and mid-market customers,” Hollinger notes. “We didn’t feel that would be a very good experience for small business customers.”
Prices begin at $119 for the entry-level Instant On AP11 and top out at $289 for the outdoor Instant On AP17. The entire product family will be available solely through partners. “Small business is an exclusively channel-led and channel-driven sales motion for us,” Hollinger says.
Aruba has two primary partner categories in mind for the new product line: existing resellers looking to add a small business practice and managed service providers in search of easily deployed networking products. “It improves their margin,” says Hollinger of the Instant On family, “because they can get in and out very quickly while still charging a flat rate for installation and management.”
Once the APs are up and running, she adds, an MSP can collect recurring revenue on management services via Instant On’s multi-tenant administration console. “Through a single pane of glass, they can actually see all of the different customers’ Aruba networks that they’re managing, and then can do a drill down on those networks,” Hollinger notes.
They can also cross-sell products from Aruba’s small business-focused OfficeConnect switch portfolio and eventually upsell them on bigger, more powerful access points. “Given that Aruba has a broad portfolio of solutions, there is an opportunity for these partners to land and expand,” Hollinger says.
The launch of Instant On is one element in a larger SMB-focused initiative by Aruba and HPE. “Both companies are really doubling down on our investment in small business,” Hollinger says.
For Aruba, those investments include the recent creation of a dedicated small business unit. Partners can expect that group to roll out more new products in the future. “We want to continue to advance our small business portfolio,” Hollinger says, citing OfficeConnect as a product family especially ripe for expansion.
Aruba has a new small business partner program in the works too. “We are in the process right now of formulating the details around that, and working very closely with distribution and some channel partners to better understand what the needs are,” Hollinger says. “I would anticipate that going forward we will have definitely some specific promotions and incentives, some things of that nature for this space, recognizing it is important in small business.”