Aruba, Pensando develop ‘industry-first’ distributed services switch

Hewlett Packard Enterprise-owned Aruba Networks has been working with edge computing startup Pensando Systems in “stealth” on a first of its kind switch series that addresses distributed services, the companies revealed.

The new Aruba CX 1000, a distributed services switch, is a brand-new category of data centre switches that combines Aruba‘s data centre switching expertise with Pensando’s programmable data processing unit (DPU), known as Pensando Elba, to bring zero-trust security to the network-server edge, closer to users and applications, the two companies said.

“Our dream of democratising the cloud; giving the capability for any major hyperscaler to compete with AWS and now bringing it down to any enterprise or government agency. Today you’re seeing the next major phase where we take these concepts and we’re going to revolutionise the switching industry,” former Cisco CEO and Pensando Chairman John Chambers (pictured above) said on Tuesday during a joint HPE and Pensando event.

The two companies are sending a “tremendous” challenge to the market, Chambers said. “We have a chance to change a whole market and take on the giants … it‘s fun to take on the big competitors and bring them down.”

HPE first teamed with Pensando on edge security capabilities with the Pensando Distributed Services Platform (DSP) as an option on some of HPE servers and the HPE GreenLake pay-per-use platform in 2020.

Tuesday‘s announcement brings those capabilities onto a switch form factor. “[This] opens up the 48-port, top of rack switch here to have all of our networking goodness and the operating system, but you’ll also have the integration of the Pensando DPU for that stateful service acceleration that customers can now begin to deploy,” John Gray, Aruba’s data centre marketing lead, told CRN US.

It‘s a big market differentiator for Aruba, Gray said. “Cisco, Arista, Dell, Juniper — no one else in the market has this industry-first technology in the market in this form factor,” he said.

The new distributed services switch is a good fit for enterprises that have “gotten a taste” of public cloud, but also want to have the same operational experience within their private and hybrid cloud environments, Gray said. It also provides east-west firewalling — something many businesses don‘t have in place today — that protects against attackers moving laterally inside the data centre once it’s breached, he said.

“To try to solve this today, you‘d have to hairpin all that traffic back up to this centralised security model, which is low performing. It’s inefficient, it takes up bandwidth of a network, it’s just not a good solution,” he said. “Even if you have enough money to throw at it, each of these firewalls could be half a million dollars each.”

The Aruba CX 1000 distributes software-defined security services from Pensando right where data is being created and processed, right at the top of the rack, Gray said. “This switch will have 100 times the scale 10 times the performance at 1/3, the cost of what a customer would have to do in terms of traditional switching, traditional hardware firewall, or agents on the servers themselves,” he said.

While the switch series takes aim at the networking and data centre incumbents, it doesn‘t compete with security products, like perimeter firewalls, Gray said.

“We’re not going head to head with the Checkpoints, Fortinets, and Palo Altos of the world,” he said. “This is a very complementary solution, and there’s an opportunity for partners to embed different security policies that other vendors might have.”

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