Aruba just doesn’t get Investment Protection

This week, Cisco launched their modular 802.11ac Access Point, the AP3700. The FUD that started almost instantly was unbelievable. This petulant mud slinging is coming from from none other than our good buddies over at Aruba who are trying with all their might to convince all of their AP134/135 users to go buy a new Access Point. While this rip-and-replace mindset has boosted their volume sales over the past several years, I think it’s time that we all revisit what modularity means and why it’s good. We’ll get this bit out of the way first however since it seems to be a common misconception about modularity: Modularity is not only about 802.11ac, it is about investment protection. Aruba wants to spin this to convince you that you a) need to buy a new AP and b) while you’re at it, let’s try and sell you a controller! This slight of hand and misdirection is really in poor form and we should all take a moment to bring this conversation back to the real world. The 802.11ac wave 1 module is one of 4 modules, and one of two Cisco 802.11ac platforms to select from. No one is forcing you to purchase a module to get 802.11ac. Cisco has a ‘rip and replace’ option as well. If you’re okay with the rip and replace approach to 802.11ac (as an Aruba customer you should be used to this by now), by all means – let’s compare a head to head AP3700 against the AP-225 (I’d do this, but for some reason they’re reluctant to send me an AP-220) using clients that are available in a the real world today. By the way, wasn’t it Aruba just a few months back complaining about Cisco using Miercom and proving that the 5760 beats the stuffing out of the 7240 controller and that the AP3600 whomped all over the AP134/135?

Let’s recap the FUD: When the AP3600 was announced, Aruba predicted:

  • That modularity doesn’t work: FALSE – Modularity does work, and has worked since the Cisco 1220 (802.11b to 802.11g migration).
  • That Cisco won’t ship modules ever: FALSE – Cisco has shipped two modules and is on track to ship an additional two.
  • You’re better off buying a new AP: FALSE – well, maybe not false. If you’re an Aruba customer, you have no choice.

This last one is really the sticking point. Most of the customers I talk to can’t stomach a new AP upgrade every year. They’re more along the lines of 3 to 5 year refresh cycles. Realistically speaking, if my upgrade cycle hit last year I could have done one of two things:

  1. Purchased Aruba AP134/135s. This means that I cannot get any sort of 802.11ac without ripping and replacing.
  2. Purchased Cisco 3602s. This means that if I need it, I can deploy 802.11ac (wave 1 or wave 2!), monitor mode, or indoor cell DAS modules at a fraction of the price of a new AP.

At the end of the day, modularity is not intended to be a one size fits all approach to technology. It’s right for some people, it’s not right for others. When it comes down to it, you can either buy more Access Points, or less Access Points, and still get current technology. If you’re considering the Aruba platform today, I’d encourage you to ask the following questions:

  • What do I do with last years APs?
  • How do I get to 802.11ac wave 2 when it comes out?
  • How do I deploy indoor cell DAS leveraging my existing APs?
  • How do I do wIPS without buying a whole new overlay solution?
  • Why aren’t you comparing against the AP3700?

In the meantime, let’s keep Aruba pointed in the right direction shall we? The modular platform argument is one that Cisco battles time and again – look at all of the people that used to hate on the Catalyst 6k platform? They had nothing to compare so, certainly modularity was bad! Modular is good, investment protection is fiscally responsible, and flexibility means that I can get some of todays technology where I need it, when I need it without breaking the bank on forklifting my infrastructure. By the way, let’s do a speeds and feeds with an AP220 and an AP3700 and see how those bar charts look…

In short, it doesn’t matter who’s infrastructure gear you’re buying. Moore’s law means that there will always be a pie chart or bar graph trying to convince you to buy something shiny and new. Modularity is about getting some of that shiny new, without having to forklift your gear – investment protection.

5 Responses to Aruba just doesn’t get Investment Protection

  1. me says:

    Awesome points.

  2. Falk says:

    Let’s hope the future of the 370x will be better than the modular 1252 that never got modules to upgrade with. I like the approach but it boils down to the availability of modules. And the latest modular AP was the 360x and it got two modules that exclude each other. The predecessor was the 1252 that one was teaching us how not to deliver modularity you had only two modules and even two slots that were not able to carry what you like one was bound to 5 GHz and the other to 2.4 GHz. So what flexibility did we gain from that? No double 5 GHz radio possibility. No modules for 2nd gen 11n with 450 MBit. I believe in modular platforms but after my experience with the 1252 promises i hesitate with my enthusiasm.

    • scwifi says:

      For the record, the 1252s modularity was specifically intended to address the ‘then upcoming’ 802.11n ratification. In the event that the hardware was not software upgradable to support the formal specification, the modularity was there to give us an option to field replace the radios. The 1252 was indeed software upgradable to the ratified 802.11n specification, so there was never a need to add a module.

  3. David says:

    Okay, here come two religions together!
    Let’s see who will win, that’s not the right way!

    That modularity doesn’t work: FALSE – Modularity does work, and has worked since the Cisco 1220 (802.11b to 802.11g migration).

    But will the CPU handle that upgrade, from 1,3Gbps to maximum 6,9Gbps?

    How will the traffic than be forwarded to the backhaul? Via the 1Gbps Uplink?

    I’m not a Cisco guy and not an Ruba guy!


    • scwifi says:

      Both good questions that we don’t have answers to yet. It’s plausible to consider a module with an extra ethernet port on it. In my perfect world, this wave 2 module would have hardware to spare, including extra CPU and an extra link-bondable ethernet port. It would also be awesome that utilizing the extra ethernet port would be optional. In that case, if you did not have the extra run, you would not get extra bandwidth or power to the module to ‘go the extra mile’. You would get what you could power with whatever links you can provide. I can dream, can’t I? The point is, we don’t yet know what Cisco is going to do for the Wave 2 module. Anything is possible at this point. 🙂

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