Aruba Networks founder Keerti Melkote is retiring from the company he started after a two-decade innings at the helm. Aruba was acquired by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) for $2.7 billion in 2015, and Melkote continued as president of the business unit.
Melkote grew up in Hyderabad and did engineering from the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University. He then moved to the US, to do a Master’s in electrical engineering at Purdue University. His first job was at Intel, after which he spent a couple of years each at Cisco and Nortel. He founded Aruba in 2001. It started from a small room and went on to redefine the enterprise networking space. Melkote led its strategy and operations.
Announcing Melkote’s departure, HPE CEO Antonio Neri in an investor call last week said, “I am tremendously pleased with Aruba’s impressive performance, and it is against this successful backdrop that I want to share that Aruba founder, Keerti Melkote, has made the decision to retire from HPE. We acquired Aruba in 2015 when we saw the edge as the next frontier. Aruba and Keerti have been instrumental in accelerating this business to the $3 billion business it is today. I’m incredibly grateful for his leadership, and I have personally benefited from his counsel, knowledge, and friendship.”
Melkote led Aruba through its IPO in 2007, through HPE’s acquisition of the company, and then brought together all HPE’s intelligent edge portfolio under the Aruba division.
He holds multiple patents in networking and communications and was honoured by Purdue University as an Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineer in 2009.
A Purdue University note on Melkote on its website says that Melkote found a job in the university’s high energy nuclear physics lab where he helped researchers connect their computers to linear accelerators and other lab devices. “It was an improbable thing for an engineering student to do, ” Melkote is quoted as saying. “But that’s where I learned the ropes, the practical aspects of connecting networks…To this day, nearly 25 years later, I’m still in the field of networking. Everything I learned at Purdue, I still apply,” he said.
Melkote, in his blog, said Aruba’s journey began 20 years back with his co-founder Pankaj Manglik. “We took our idea to Dominic Orr, our mentor. He believed in us, helped us raise money for the venture, and served as an executive board member from the beginning,” he wrote.
Melkote placed big bets on the future of networking, and they saw Wi-Fi as a cornerstone technology.
The most common comment I get about Aruba he said is– “It’s your baby. You must be very proud.” And it is true. “Aruba is my baby. My second one in fact. The first is my daughter who was barely 4 months old when I quit my job to start Aruba. The pride I experience for Aruba is the same pride I experienced when my daughter accomplished her own milestones,” he wrote.
Aruba started in a small room and he acknowledged his team for the milestones it’s seeing today. “First there was Merwyn Andrade who joined us as our first CTO, then Pradeep Iyer as our first engineer, and then Partha Narasimhan as our first deep wireless guru. And as we went from 2 to 20 team members, we started celebrating our milestones.”
He said they booted up their first controller-based Wi-Fi solution in its labs for the first time, showing it to customers at the Tribeca Grill in NYC and got the first purchase order from the late Al Foitag at Warner Bros — those, he said, were the key wins in Aruba’s first year.
On his exit from Aruba, Melkote said, “While there is never an easy time to leave the company you started, I believe the right time to do it is when things are going well. It is the best time to bring in new talent and leadership to fuel the energy needed to continue growth well into the future.” ToI