WLAN management vendors bombard IT with solutions

With wireless LANs becoming a major component within an enterprise network, a new class of vendor offering distributed wireless monitoring and management is coming to the fore.

This week AirMagnet Inc. will introduce its Mobile 4.0 suite with a cluster of four new security and monitoring enhancements to the product.

At the same time, chief rival AirDefense Inc. will launch before the end of the year the next version of AirDefense Enterprise 4.0 which will incorporate more wireless LAN protocols and more predictive capability about vulnerability. Last month, AirDefense introduced one of the first Bluetooth monitoring tools for security.

In the meantime, an eight-year-old network management company, Dartware LLC, will be entering this space with a new wireless monitoring product called WISPerMapper. WISPerMapper maps wireless network performance, identifies bottlenecks, and can identify and shut down rogue access points.

And shipping in August will be AireSpace Inc.’s Wireless Location Services, a package of applications that includes RF Fingerprinting, location software that the company claims can locate rogue devices within a few metres.

Stephen Elliot, a senior analyst with IDC, said that management solutions from companies such as AirMagnet, AirDefense, AireSpace, and Dartware represent a response to a cultural change taking place within IT.

“Up until now, wireless management has been an afterthought. IT needs to put management at the forefront of a wireless decision,” said Elliot.

AirMagnet’s Mobile 4.0 suite, shipping this week, will include support for Cisco EAP-FAST (Extensible Authentication Protocol-Flexible Authentication via Secure Tunneling) which is a follow on to EAP-LEAP (Lightweight EAP). Because EAP-FAST prevents any client device not using FAST from connecting to the network, without support for EAP-FAST, IT would have to drop all of its security while they test.

Also included in Version 4 are diagnostic tools for voice over IP over wireless, a roaming tool that can report on how long it takes to handoff from one access point (AP) to another and a jitter tool that watches the signal levels and tells a manager whether the signal is consistent and smooth.

“It is a good way to spot interference on your wireless,” said Rich Mironov, vice-president of marketing at AirMagnet.

Also added are new security alarms, including one for the Queensland denial-of-service attack and a rogue blocking feature that bombards a rogue device to disable it in exactly the same way a denial-of-service attack operates.

AirMagnet solutions run both in a server setting using sensors, which like access points are placed on walls, as well as in a client version for laptops and handhelds.

AirDefense does not offer a client solution.

However, according to Elliot, both AirMagnet and AirDefense are somewhat similar in their various capabilities.

“It is the level of granularity that the user will look for on each product that makes the difference,” Elliot said.

AirMagnet Laptop Trio starts at US$3,495 and AirMagnet Handheld 4.0 is priced at US$2,995. The WISPerMapper Starter Pack from Dartware starts at US$350 for software and includes support for 10 wireless and 10 wired devices. Pricing on other products from other companies were not available at press time.

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