Tag Archives: WLAN Pro Conference

Look Beyond Your WLAN Vendor for Antenna Options

Look, Sport- you might get Wi-Fi… But do you really get ANTENNAS? (Maybe you frau-frau types call them aerials… whatever- go drink your Earl Grey and chill out.) If talk of wavelengths, gain, polarity, and the science of turning electrical signals into RF waves bores you, then move along. Stick with your cute little dipoles and be on your way. But if antennas jazz you, and you understand that this important tip of the communications spear can mold and shape your output and reception in the most incredible ways, well then I have some names to drop in your general direction.

Antennas have played a prominent role throughout my adult life. From my decade stint working and teaching Electronic Warfare to the years of subjecting my wife and kids to my latest homebrew ham radio antenna, I’ve learned much about the power of this component. That power is often overlooked in Wi-Fi, where many of my fellow WLAN professionals deal exclusively in captive antennas (the ones that you can’t see because they’re built in to the access point). But when it’s time to venture into the realm of external antennas, you have real choices. And those choices extend beyond the antenna options provided by your Wi-Fi vendor. Let’s talk about that bigger range of choices.

Get More Possibilities, And Maybe Save Some Money

External antennas add to the cost of any Wi-Fi installation. That’s just a fact of life. But the antenna vendors I’m about to mention just might save you a good buck over your incumbent Wi-Fi vendor, while providing interesting alternatives for a range of deployment scenarios. It’s what they do.

  • Ventev  all kinds of cool stuff going on. After all, these are the Terrawave folks that long-time WLANers are likely familiar with. From comprehensive site-survey kits to antennas for any “normal” situations to funky-cool offerings like their raised floor antennas, Ventev is worth being familiar with when you need a creative antenna solution.
  • AccelTex also makes a slew of Wi-Fi accessories and antennas for many industries and pretty much any application. Here’s an excellent video done at the 2016 Wireless LAN Professionals Conference, by Brian Smith of AccelTex on the topic of Dual Polarity Antennas in High Density Wireless Environments. As with Ventev, AccelTex offers many, many options and keeps current with leading WLAN vendors hardware.
  • Then there’s PCTelJust another interesting antenna vendor with a lot to offer.

Typically, when you shop for antennas you can usually find the exact (or pretty darn close) antenna that your WLAN vendor sells for a given application at a decent price from either Ventev, AccelTex or PCTel. If you buy a lot of antennas, the savings can add up. But you also get more than you pay for in that each of these antenna makers puts out top-quality gear.

Maybe antennas aren’t the most exciting things out there, but they are critical in Wi-Fi. If you’re out looking for antennas beyond the standard omni, it usually means that the success of your scenario will depend on the antenna choice and placement you decide on. Placement is up to you, and even the best antennas are at the mercy of the designer/installer for performance. But antenna choices? You have more than you may have realized. Check these companies out.

 

Appreciating Aruba Networks’ Instant Mode

The last time I got hands-on familiar with Aruba’s wireless gear, the AP-125 was king of their lineup and the company didn’t have a switch offering. Like with my own Cisco network at the time, you were pretty much doing the thin AP thing with Aruba controllers, or you were doing another product set back in the day.

Like others in the biz, I have followed Aruba through the years both as an analyst and as a potential future customer. I went to an Airheads conference years ago, and got invited to others that I couldn’t make. I took note when Aruba released their switching line and became eligible for the Gartner Short-Sighted Quadrant, went to the company’s Sunnyvale HQ a couple of times for Wireless Field Day, and penned a number of articles on this blog and for Network Computing. Among them (but hardly inclusive):

Aruba Networks Swings Big At BYOD And More With ClearPass
Aruba Brings Layer 3 To Wireless Mesh Networks
Aruba’s 802.11ac Rollout Cleans Up Sticky Clients
Aruba Debuts Bare-Bones Cloud WLAN
Aruba Networks Knows The Value of Purchasing Well

I mention all this just to establish that I’m generally familiar with Aruba, but by no means “into” their hardware these days. Maybe this is why I’m so impressed with Aruba’s Instant AP Mode.  

For me, there have been a handful of “wow, this is excellent” moments of discovery through my own wireless career. Like when I used our Cisco MSE to alert on the MAC address of a stolen computer, which led to to the first of a number of solved crimes compliments of our Cisco WLAN logging capabilities. Then there was the 2-click ease of using Meraki MX appliances for site-to-site tunnels to extend my campus network to far away locations. And the AVC capabilities from Aerohive, that came my way before anyone else was doing it. I now count my getting to know Aruba’s Instant APs among those truly wondrous moments where the value of what you’re looking at shines at you, bright and immediately clear.

So what has impressed me about Aruba Instant? It’s all about the ease of setup, the completeness of the feature set, and the fact that you need no licenses, no cloud account, and no controller to derive immediate and impressive value. It’s the joy of old-school, stand-alone Wi-Fi from a simpler time, painted up nice with all of the aspects of modern feature-rich WLAN- and without the BS complexity that comes with most modern wireless systems. Granted, Aruba Instant is more suitable for smaller environments and branches, but it’s sooooooooo slick.

I’m playing with two IAP-225 802.11ac APs and an 802.11n RAP-3. These were given to me for attending Wireless Field Day and Keith Parson’s excellent WLAN Professionals Summit (all attendees received these).  There are so many ways you can operate these APs individually, or working together, that I can’t think of a set of enterprise or SMB operational parameters I couldn’t achieve with them. I’m loving the virtual controller capabilities, and have not seen a UI and accompanying documentation so polished and complete in quite a while. I feel almost like I’m getting away with something as I remind myself that I’m doing everything in these units with no NMS and and no cloud account. You have to set one up, then add another with zero config required, to really appreciate the magic here.

Here’s a slightly dated article from when Instant was introduced, and one of many YouTube videos introducing the product line and it’s ease of set up (this one from Streakwave Wireless).

Needless to say, I’m thoroughly impressed. Well done, Aruba Networks.