Fluke Networks offers up a new view

Fluke Networks’ new OptiView Integrated Network Analyzer follows a trend among network tools to no longer be merely fix-it solutions, according to Paul Bugala, a network and service management analyst with International Data Corp. Ltd. in Framingham, Mass.

“They’re becoming more of a distributed and proactive management strategy,” Bugala said, “which enables you to stay in a network operations centre and, based on the performance information from distributed elements, make decisions about the configuration of routers and switches, or network planning, or at higher levels to make adjustments to application response time and server response time.”

Bugala added he expects the Everett, Wash.-based Fluke Corporation to market its OptiView to enterprises dealing with IT personnel shortages.

“Anything’s that’s going to enable (enterprises) to cut down on the number of times when they have to physically go out with an analyzer and do packet decodes and post mortems after something’s gone down…is great for enterprise,” he explained. “It’s getting harder and harder to staff a network operations centre.”

Released late last month, the OptiView Integrated Network Analyzer is the most recent in a long line of network analysis tools, such as LAN meters and cable testers, that Fluke has released since it entered the networking business in 1993.

The remote tool reads a network’s infrastructure almost immediately after it is patched in. It displays the mapped information via a Windows ’98 graphical user interface, though the operating system is actually by Fluke. The screen can also be viewed by up to seven remote users using a network connection and a Web browser.

According to Fluke, the information delivered to users is collected from a variety of activities, including seven layer protocol analysis, active discovery, SNMP device analysis, RMON2 traffic analysis and physical layer testing. In a situation where a network is down, the user can determine where the problem is and drill down to find out exactly what the problem is.

Fluke said in 70 per cent of circumstances a network error is due to a physical problem, therefore a repair person will still have to be dispatched. But as “network shutdowns” increasingly translate into “work shutdowns,” the company believes many owners of private networks will be eager to buy the tool so problems can be quickly located. The company does not expect sales of OptiView to affect sales of its other network tools.

At a price range of $22,000 to $39,000, Fluke admitted it does not expect many small businesses to purchase the units. Rather, it is looking at medium-sized businesses with networks of more than 100 nodes.

Bugala said Fluke is aiming dead-on at the correct target. “The bottom line is everyone needs a protocol analyzer,” he suggested. “It’s (just) a matter of when you get into the game, in terms of moving up from using a cable tester or LAN meter in a very fix-it like deployment…to a less labour-intensive and more distributed management (tool).”

Fluke Networks, a division of Fluke Electronics of Canada Inc. can be visited at www.flukenetworks.com.