Historically, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise\u2019s Wi-Fi strategy has been to be an Aruba OEM. Given Aruba\u2019s high market share and strong technology, this makes sense because it gives Alcatel-Lucent a credible set of products to build a business around.\nHowever, as is the case with all things in life, one size doesn\u2019t fit all, and Aruba\u2019s products, as good as they are, aren\u2019t for everyone. Aruba makes great technology, loaded with features, but they are a premium-price vendor and some customers have budget constraints.\nThe Alcatel-Lucent Stellar line of access points\nTo address this part of the market, last year Alcatel-Lucent introduced its own line of access points (AP) under the brand name \u201cStellar.\u201d These products are designed to be lower cost and easier to deploy.\nThe Stellar product line has two management modes: Express, which is designed for deployments of up to 64 APs, and Enterprise, which can scale up to 4,000 APs. Details of each are below:\n\nExpress mode is a completely controller-less solution in which the controller functionality\u00a0is distributed across a couple of APs in the cluster. It is managed\u00a0via a web portal is managed and includes a wizard for initial configuration, making it ideal for small businesses. Express also comes with an integrated guest portal, making it easy for businesses that have little to no technical expertise to set up a guest network.\nEnterprise is meant for larger deploymentsand is also controller-less \u2014 the virtual controller functionality is distributed across all the APs.\u00a0Customers can choose between a local management system or one that is cloud-based. In either case, administrators\u00a0manage the solution through a single, centralized tool. The solution also offers unified management, so network professionals can manage their wired and wireless networks from a single console. As one would expect, Enterprise also has features such as high availability, wireless security, roles-based policies and analytic capabilities.\n\nThe initial set of features for Express and Enterprise were fairly basic, but the company recently added several features in the areas of management and performance. These include:\n\nRemote cluster management (Express only)\nExternal captive portal support\nUser behavior tracking\nLink aggregation (Enterprise only)\nDHCP \/ DNS \/ NAT (Express only)\nPeer-to-peer wireless bridge mode\nLinear mesh daisy chaining\nSticky client avoidance\nGreater control over channels and transmission rates\n\nThere are a lot of great new features, but the one I find particularly interesting is the meshing capabilities. With most Wi-Fi solutions, the APs need to connect to the network via an Ethernet switch, which requires a cable drop everywhere the business wants an AP.\u00a0 If there isn\u2019t one, cable pullers need to be brought in and new wiring needs to be run at an average cost of about $300\/line.\n Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise\nMeshing lets the APs connect with one another, and the network is extended where cabling doesn\u2019t reach. Several solutions do this, but they use the 5 GHz channel so all devices need to connect at 2.4 GHz, which many businesses are trying to do away with. The Alcatel-Lucent meshing uses the 5 GHz low band to connect, leaving the 5 GHz high and 2.4 for client connectivity.\nNew Alcatel-Lucent 802.11ac Wave 2 APs\nAlcatel-Lucent also introduced two new 802.11ac Wave 2 APs \u2014 the OmniAccess Stellar AP1201H and OmniAccess Stellar AP1201. They are both 2-radio solutions, but the \u201cH\u201d model is specifically designed for the hospitality vertical. The RF coverage is purposely limited, so a hotel can deploy one in each room.\nOther hotel-specific features: Users have the ability to turn off the LEDs, the AP has PoE or DC power, it can be wall mounted or put under a desk, it doesn't have a logo, and it has a clean, sleek look, which makes it unobtrusive compared to a typical AP.\u00a0\nThe 1201 is an entry-level AP meant for a typical Wi-Fi deployment.\nThis brings the total number of Stellar AP options to six and includes everything from a basic Wave 1 AP to 4x4:4 Wave 2 APs and an outdoor model. The Stellar line has a number of features that enable location-based services including wayfinding, geofencing and analytics. As Wi-Fi continues to grow in importance, indoor location services will become critical.\nIt\u2019s likely that many Network World readers, particularly those based in North America, were not aware of the networking business from Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, but the company offers a solid, price-competitive solution with its Stellar line. It\u2019s relatively new, but Alcatel-Lucent has beefed it up quickly to ensure customers have the features they need today, but also tomorrow as they transition to digital businesses.\nOne final point, customers currently using the Aruba OEM products need not be concerned because Alcatel-Lucent has extended its agreement with Aruba for another decade.