On my first day as an intern at Aruba, I was handed an instant access point for trying out Central. I decided to validate Aruba Central against a list of features that one would look for in any network management system and given below are my findings:
Intuitiveness and ease of use: This is not a network specific feature but is definitely one of the most essential requirements for any software. So I thought to myself, what better way to test the intuitiveness of Central than to have my aunt set it up (who BTW does not come from a technical background). When I proposed the idea of setting it up, as an incentive I promised to take care of food for the rest of the week if she gets it right. Needless to say most of our meals that week was pizza or takeout ;). My conclusion, if she could set up the access point with Aruba Central by following the instructions then there is nothing more that I need to add to prove the intuitiveness of this software. I obviously didn't expect her to be able to appreciate all the features but she definitely found the software easy to use and navigate.
Zero touch provisioning concept: This too was validated by my aunt while she was setting it up. Aruba Central lets you setup and do all the configurations before the device is even connected. Neat! The ability to have things ready before the devices are connected makes the life of admins so much easier.
Monitoring: Probably one of the core features for any network management system. Central defaults to the overview page under the monitoring category once you log in. It gives you a pretty consolidated view of everything that you need to regularly check on a single page. What I loved about it is, it's not overwhelmingly cluttered with too much information but at the same time it's not too simplistic either. It has enough graphs and combined statistical numbers and also maps for access points, clients, etc. You can then look deeper into the access points, clients, event logs and others if needed. In my opinion the information is well organized and detailed.
Streamlined network management: Streamlining the tasks for a network admin removes redundant tasks. The way Aruba Central tackles this is by dividing the access points into groups. Each group inherits the same configurations and hence the APs don't have to be configured and managed individually. The group control also applies to reports, maintenance tasks and user management.
Ability to detect failure: No one likes their WiFi getting disrupted so it's pretty important to be able to avoid possible issues. For this, Central has alerts. Wireless Intrusion Detection System and flagged access points and flagged clients are your saviors. Central notifies you if there is something fishy after which the admin can look deeper into what could be the possible cause and fix the problem before it even becomes one. Central also lets you configure the threat detection level. So you can decide at what point you’d like to know that there might be a need for preventive actions.
Configuration: As mentioned earlier the zero touch provisioning concept is pretty simple and can be done in groups. The steps are minimal which makes it a pretty quick task but at the same time it gives the admin control over quite a few things. You not only have network and access point configurations but also DHCP, VPN, WIDS and system configurations. Central also provides RF configurations and security configurations include manual and dynamic black listing. There are other service configurations too which includes RTLS. I won’t go too deep into this but each sub section under configuration has quite a few options that the admin can control.
Notifications: ‘Alright, so Central has all these great features but, I don't want to keep logging in and checking things 24/7’. Don’t worry, Central has that covered too. It not only has notifications come up at the top corner with the option of checking them on a separate page but also has emails sent out which can be configured for specific event types.
Reporting: All network admins need reports and Central does a good job here. There are summary reports for network (inventory, client and usage), security (snapshot of WIDS) and PCI compliance. Central gives you the option of scheduling a report for later and have it emailed to you when it’s done and then of course repeat that as often or as seldom as you like. You can even export that report as a PDF if you like.
Maintenance: Now that you have everything set up and things are working fine, all you need to do is maintain everything. This is really important for network admins who manage deployments across multiple locations. Maintenance under Central includes subscription keys, user management and device management. It also includes firmware. The latest firmware is displayed so you can upgrade if and when you feel like. The best part is that you get to schedule upgrades to a later time that suits you.
CLI access to the APs: This is a feature I personally love as you actually have the device console come up in your browser. A cloud based network management system with the ability to have access to the device console without physically having the device next to you is just awesome!
In my opinion, it’s a complete system that can be used by people with minimal networking knowledge. I have given a very high level overview of Central and haven’t even touched some of the features offered by it but I hope it was enough to get you interested to give it a try.
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