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HPE extends edge to home network

With employees working from home, IT departments are struggling to provide adequate remote access to corporate systems

During its Virtual Discover conference, HPE discussed the importance of Aruba, with the global pandemic meaning enterprise networking has shifted focus.

In response to the shift in working practices to working from home (WFH), HPE has announced its intention to acquire software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) specialist Silver Peak for $925m.

Announcing the acquisition, CEO Antonio Neri said Silver Peak will be combined with the Aruba business to extend into the SD-WAN market, creating what he claimed would be a leader in the edge to cloud market. He described the acquisition as an evolution of the edge to cloud strategy, enabling enterprise customers to deliver a cloud experience to all applications. 

As Computer Weekly has previously reported, the Aruba business is associated with campus and branch networking, such as the network that it installed at Gatwick Airport in 2018.

While the company describes the acquisition as a way to build out the Aruba business unit, at its heart is a realisation that branch networks and campus networks are unlikely to be big growth areas while coronavirus measures remain in place.

Describing the potential application areas for SilverPeak with the Aruba business, Neri said: “The campus of the future will be very different – more of us will work from home, the branch is your home. In order to connect all these micro branches, you need new technology.”

As many people who are working from home have experienced, access via a virtual private network (VPN) over a home network into the corporate VPN is far from ideal.

In a blog post on the SilverPeaks website, industry analyst Jason Bloomberg wrote: “VPNs provide a secure point-to-point connection between the user’s device and the corporate network, but don’t provide direct access to any cloud-based apps or other assets. VPNs can also be difficult to use, and they don’t provide adequate QoS [quality of service] controls. The most obvious cause is family contention over bandwidth.”

Silver Peak offers two products to extend SD-WANs into people’s homes: Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge Ultra-Small (US) and its Extra-Small (XS) appliances. According to Silver Peak, home users plug in their thin client device to a LAN port on the EdgeConnect appliance. From the perspective of the device, it appears to be connected to the corporate LAN. 

According to Silver Peak, EdgeConnect enforces software-defined application routing policies through what it calls business intent overlays. The appliance supports standardised QoS policies to ensure that Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) traffic receive proper treatments, while security policies block any unwanted applications. 

“Edge computing begins with the network to be sure, but is more about supporting application-based workloads across a variety of different types of devices and locations by abstracting the provisioning and management of those devices,” Bloomberg wrote in the blog post.

“In the WFH scenario, the focus appears to be on the network. But from the perspective of the WFH employee, the focus is on the applications and corporate information they use every day to do their jobs.” 

This extension of the edge into workers’ homes fits into HPE’s long-term vision for edge-to cloud computing. In 2018, it announced its strategic plan to invest $4bn in a strategy it called the Intelligent Edge over four years, and the company has been identifying opportunities to help customers convert their data – from the edge to any cloud – into actionable insights.

While the strategy has been very much focused on new application areas such as edge computing, for CEO Neri, the acquisition of Silver Peak enables HPE to extend the edge to the home work environment.

Read more about supporting home workers

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  • Having Citrix Workspace in place pre-pandemic made the shift to remote work easier for William Fry employees, but shoddy home networks posed a significant hurdle for the IT team.

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