Fluke dips its toes in wireless water

With its foot firmly planted in the fixed network monitoring space, Fluke Networks Canada has announced a new strategy to tackle wireless issues and has released two products to help net managers do just that.

Last month, the Mississauga, Ont.-based company unveiled the OptiView Wireless Network Analyzer, a handheld tool that adds wireless data capture and analysis to Fluke’s existing OptiView Integrated Network Analyzer, and the Fluke WaveRunner, a Linux-powered Hewlett Packard iPAQ, which verifies 802.11b deployments and detects rogue access points within the network.

According to Fluke, OptiView Integrated Network Analyzer with the new wireless option provides 10/100/1000Mb wired and 11MB wireless visibility. The WLAN analyzer enables net managers to “see” their networks, including the results of seven-layer protocol analysis, active discovery, SNMP device analysis, RMON2 traffic analysis and physical-layer testing, and also monitors all 802.11b channels.

The WaveRunner handheld tester is a palm-sized, colour interface device that enables the detection of wireless access points and clients, wireless channel scanning, wireless signal strength analysis and wireless traffic analysis, the company said. WaveRunner also comes with client-based troubleshooting tools like link, ping and throughput.

“Wireless is the most interesting thing going in Layer 1 and Layer 2 of the network,” said Lance Mansfield, wireless product manager for Fluke. “What is great about wireless LANs is that they are really an extension of the wired network. Our core line of test tools that people use right now to troubleshoot their wired networks can now be used to troubleshoot the wireless segment. This is really a bonus for the (network) manager because they don’t necessarily know whether it is a wired or wireless problem.”

Although Fluke has decided to dip its toes in the wireless well, it has not abandoned its roots. Last month, the company released the LinkRunner Network Multimeter, a tiny tool designed to perform tests for troubleshooting and problem identification within the physical and link layers of LANs. According to Infonetics Research Co. in San Jose, it is within the physical and link layers that more than half of all network problems occur.

LinkRunner performs three essential tests to enable front-line technicians to quickly solve problems that may have eluded them in the past, Fluke said. By plugging in LinkRunner to the network, users can conduct link tests to determine whether drops are active; conduct length tests to determine whether cable length is within specifications and whether it has any faults; and perform ping tests to verify connectivity to network resources.

“The bulk of problems tend to be physical, like cabling connectors and PC configuration issues,” said David Green, director of marketing for Fluke. “It deals with a lot of problems on the first line. It is literally a ‘few minutes’ kind of tool.”

For Yves Gauthier, the LinkRunner’s small price tag was an added bonus to the tool’s functionality. Gauthier, regional manager for Bell Canada Advanced Technical Services (ATS) in Ottawa and a Fluke user for more than 20 years, said that in today’s environments, technicians want to know if the cable is connected to the port properly. He said that the only way to do this is by performing tests on the switch itself as a ping.

“By being able to ping, you confirm that you are connecting the port with the right speeds,” Gauthier said. “That is something that is really neat with the LinkRunner. It really is a handy tool and it does all the basic tests that you need to do to confirm that connection is valid.”

The Fluke LinkRunner is available now and is priced at $852. The Fluke OptiView Wireless Network Analyzer option is priced at $11,150 and the Fluke WaveRunner lists for $7,400. For more information, visit the company online at www.fluke.com.

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