If Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) is so subdued about the future of its networking business, how come much smaller rival Aruba Networks (Nasdaq: ARUN) is doing so well?

Aruba's extra-secure wireless networks for enterprise-class customers are a hit these days. Both Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) have installed Aruba networks on their own corporate campuses, and that level of respect from well-established thought leaders in the tech sector says a lot about the quality of Aruba's solutions. The company added 800 new customers in the just-reported first quarter of fiscal 2011, and sales rose by 44% year over year to $83.1 million.

The $2 million of GAAP earnings was a company record. That may not sound very impressive, but you should also consider that Aruba generated $16 million of operating cash flow in the period. Cash is king, and low earnings just means less money going out to Uncle Sam, so that's just smart fiscal management.

CEO Dominic Orr pointed to mobile technology trends driving his gravy train: "The proliferation of mobile devices, such as iPads, tablet devices, and smartphones, continues to rapidly increase, forcing companies to reconsider their approach to the network edge."

The same trends really should help Cisco as well, but Aruba is smaller and hungrier with a much tighter focus on the exact end market that is super-hot at the moment. So Aruba's shares deserve to soar today, gaining nearly 8% as of this writing and triggering a wave of jumps across the networking sector: Smallish competitor Meru Networks (Nasdaq: MERU) and larger WAN-optimization kingpin Riverbed Technology (Nasdaq: RVBD) are both up almost as much as Aruba today on no major news of their own. Both Riverbed and Aruba have absolutely manhandled the market over the last year or so by more than doubling their share prices while Cisco lost 18% and trailed the S&P 500 benchmark by a wide margin.

Are we looking at a changing of the guard in the overall networking market, or did Aruba just get lucky? Discuss in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. The Fool has written calls (bull call spread) on Cisco Systems. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.