Aruba – On the right side of history.

If you google Aruba, the first thing you’ll find is a jewel of an island in the Caribbean—a dream destination for cruises. Beautiful images—the beach, a turquoise sea, a feelgood paradise. The jump from this to the network specialist of the same name is shorter than it may initially seem. When choosing the name, the company’s founders followed a clear line of thinking: Their goal was to be listed on the stock exchange. They wanted a name that came near the beginning of the alphabet, well ahead of the competition, and that exuded a sense of wellbeing. Aruba. That works!

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We meet Lars Hartmann at Bechtle in Neckarsulm. Short hair, black glasses, beard and a winning smile. He has a positive, open air and a pleasant, calm manner. A dyed-in-the-wool salesman who has been at home in the network business for 18 years. He was the third sales representative in HP’s network division, back when it was still called ProCurve Networking. When Aruba was acquired by Hewlett Packard Enterprise in November 2015, something unusual happened. HPE chose not to simply assimilate Aruba. Instead they kept the name and strengthened their new acquisition by entrusting it with important aspects of HPE’s own network business. For Lars Hartmann, the switch to Aruba was a culture shock at first, leaping from the large, consciously pragmatic HPE Group to a young, agile specialist company. Notwithstanding its impressive turnover—which has broken the one billion barrier—Aruba has retained the soul and spirit of a start-up company. Something that HPE continues to foster, not least with its planned relocation of its headquarters from Palo Alto to the new and fully digitalised premises of Aruba.

“Bechtle is an incredibly innovative company, yet I have been astonished to see how tangibly the traditional Swabian values of pragmatism and reliability remain in place.”


Lars Hartmann
Sales Director Germany, Aruba


Walk into any shop, any café or restaurant today and there’s Wi-Fi. It’s what we’ve come to expect. It’s a matter of fact, quite the opposite of sexy.

Lars Hartmann: Naturally, as users we expect mobile connectivity wherever we go. And it is everywhere, too. Even on today’s fully digitalised cruise ships. The only time we are aware of the network is when it’s not available. Still, for us network business continues to be highly attractive, particularly because of the additional functionalities now available. The transformation of traditional business models no longer hinges on Wi-Fi. Rather, Wi-Fi is the outcome of planning for location-based services.



In what sense?

I am thinking of retailers who can identify their in-store customers and join the dots of their online and offline activities. Retailers can send context-aware push messages to customers in the right place and at the right time. A special deal upon entering a shop, for instance, such as a 10% discount for the next 30 minutes. Indoor navigation is also very important for shopping centres. The benefits for shoppers are obvious, but indoor navigation also enables shopping mall operators to monitor footfall anywhere within the building at any time. That can be important in negotiating different rental rates. Enhanced in-store logistics is also a business advantage directly linked to Wi-Fi.

HPE is set to relocate its headquarters to Aruba’s fully digitalised building in Santa Clara in 2018.  

Is it these versatile business benefits that drive Aruba’s impressive growth?

Wi-Fi is certainly a driving factor within the network business at the moment and we're currently enjoying disproportionate levels of growth. While the market in Germany is growing by 5-6%, we have achieved growth rates of around 50%. There is still unbelievable potential in German-speaking countries.



Aruba received a lot of attention in the USA last year when it provided services for Super Bowl spectators.

Yes, it was a happy coincidence that the 50th Super Bowl just happened to be taking place right on our doorstep in the San Francisco 49ers stadium in San Jose. And the stadium was already part of our clientele as we had previously fitted it out with wireless technology. The day that more than 71,000 people made use of our Wi-Fi services in the building was an exciting one. Well over 10 terabytes of data was transmitted via Wi-Fi during the game, a large proportion of this data consisting of selfies, with fans taking 200 per second. Much more important, however, were the additional services we offered. Spectators could use the 49ers app to have drinks delivered to their seats, and then simply pay using their mobile phones. The app also helped people to find parking spaces, displayed evacuation routes and even allowed people to rewatch plays. These are just some of the functionalities we have realised through our network solutions for the English Premier League and the Spanish Primera División.


Are these Aruba’s largest customers, too?

One of our biggest customers would be the Home Depot DIY store chain in the USA. With 2,200 branches, managing a rollout while not disrupting their daily business was certainly a challenge. Without a doubt, one of our key skills in this process was anticipating errors before they affected users. Our collaboration with MSC Cruises is also very exciting.They have asked us to digitalise its cruises, thereby optimising the operations management and providing considerable added value for customers. Incidentally, it is not the Chief Information Officer who is responsible for this sort of project, but rather the Chief Innovation Officer.



In your view, how do American customers differ from German ones?

German values, such as the clichéd efficiency, are also noticeable in business. Attention to detail and a predilection for documentation are typically German traits, while in the States, trial and error is considered an effective way to achieve your goal. Culturally speaking, German companies have more difficulty with cloud solutions. They are fully prepared for the cloud, but expect high security standards, encryption, disaster recovery, etc right from the start. In addition, German customers want to understand exactly how something works and why. Incidentally, that’s something I really like. And the positive way of looking at it is that when it’s made in Germany, it generally works.

No matter what happens in data centres—or at what pace, you’ll find us at the forefront with the users and the devices. 

Lars Hartmann, Sales Director Germany, Aruba

Bechtle has five Aruba Experts in its ranks. The challenging eight-hour-long exam to qualify as such involves a simulated customer scenario in which candidates have to design an entire infrastructure for a large international company against the clock, based on concrete specifications and with limited technical scope—as a rule, just 20% of candidates pass. Bechtle also boasts an Aruba Ambassador. The 75 global partner representatives meet regularly for an intensive practice-sharing session as part of the Ambassador Meeting.


Let’s look further ahead. How do you picture the workplace of the future?

This might sound like I am pushing my own agenda, but the first thing I think of is our new headquarters in Santa Clara. There, you can experience the workplace of the future in practice. Everything is wireless. Most of the building is open-plan because everything revolves around collaboration, but there are also spaces into which you can retreat. The campus app, which features navigation assistance and a room booking system, also shows who is currently occupying the various rooms. The great thing about it is that it allows us to optimise the use of space. We know exactly when specific areas are in use and can ensure they are used appropriately throughout the day. And of course: I depend on having instant connectivity everywhere. That is also the case for the latest laptop generation. So no Wi-Fi is not an option. Visitors are assisted by a digital concierge, which allows them to set themselves up for guest Wi-Fi access and find their way around the premises by themselves.


Of today’s up and coming technologies, which will prevail in the market?

That’s a difficult question to answer. IoT has already been gaining importance at a steady pace, and we can see the huge business potential in the area of cloud computing. Cities are launching pilot projects in a bid to become smarter. Last but not least, digitalisation is also one of the most important topics in the German government’s coalition negotiations that are currently underway. I am reminded of something our founder, Keerti Melkote said: “We are on the right side of history.” No matter what happens in data centres—or at what pace, you’ll find us at the forefront with the users and the devices. That’s where we belong. We put the data in data centre.


Data usage is also at the heart of Aruba’s most recent acquisitions.

You're right. Introspect is active in user and device behaviour analytics, and has developed a tool that analyses and categorises user and end device behaviour. This helps to profile the user or end device, which in turn can facilitate security classification, among other possibilities. If the behaviour in question deviates from the standard, data protection kicks in and can prevent internal data from leaving the company without authorisation, for example.



Enterprise Networking Solutions
Aruba Solutions


Aruba is involved in diverse areas and some extremely challenging projects. How important are your sales partners?

They are essential to us, undoubtedly. Ultimately, our expertise lies in hardware and software, and we rely on our partners’ expertise in installation and implementation. Over 90% of our revenue comes via sales partners.



Bechtle is one of your few Platinum Partners in Germany.

Yes, there is currently a total of just five partners who have achieved this highest status. Bechtle is currently one of our largest sales partners, with a very high number of certified employees. Bechtle is an incredibly innovative company, and yet they’re deeply rooted in Southern Germany, fostering such traditional values as reliability and a pragmatic approach. Our collaboration is outstanding thanks both to employee expertise, but also to Bechtle’s strong network. We have already realised some wonderful projects—and we have great plans for the future.



To wrap this up, could you tell us three things we should know about Aruba?

Customer first, customer last. Secondly: we are the biggest small company—because the start-up spirit within the company remains unchanged from the early days and is an incredibly strong driving force. And thirdly: mobile first!

Published on Jan 3, 2018.