Taming wireless nets

Vernier's new WLAN boxes ease management, improve security, and allow seamless roaming--AirMagnet puts WLAN monitoring and troubleshooting into a PDA.
Written by Rich Castagna, Contributor
If any lesson has been learned from the surge in popularity of wireless networks it's that LANs--cabled or not--are needy things, requiring constant care, oversight, and maintenance.

Two companies premiered products at NetWorld+Interop intended to address the management of Wi-Fi networks. One product deals with WLANs on an enterprise scale, while the other is a more modest but utilitarian affair.

Vernier 6000 Series
Vernier Networks enhanced its line of WLAN management equipment with a new 6000 series of products that includes three new devices: the CS 6000 Control Server, the IS 6000 Integrated System, and the AM 6000 Access Manager. The first two of these units can be used in standalone mode or in conjunction with each other; the IS 6000 is intended for smaller installations, providing access control and connectivity in a single four-port box.

The CS 6000 centralizes security management and allows configuration of thousands of access points. One the key features of the CS 6000 is its Rights Manager, which allows administrators to establish access rights for individuals or groups based on combinations of criteria such as identity, location, and time; policies can also be used to enforce the use of a VPN for access. The unit also provides seamless roaming across access points, supporting both 802.11b and 802.11, and even Bluetooth.

AM 6000 also provides wireless security and management, but it sits at the network's edge. Vernier says the four-port (expandable to 12 ports) AM 6000 is the first WLAN access device to offer links to Gigabit Ethernet backbones using option cards that provide the fiber interface.

Products in the 6000 line are available now; base prices for the devices are $3,000 for the AM 6000, $6,000 for the CS 6000, and $7,500 for the IS 6000.

AirMagnet Wireless Handheld Analyzer
AirMagnet's WLAN management product is a more modest affair, designed to provide real-time monitoring and diagnosis. It's software component runs on Pocket PCs equipped with 64MB of memory and a Type II CompactFlash card slot.

AirMagnet Handheld uses graphics to report on network activity, reporting such metrics as access point traffic, channel signal strength, and unauthorized access points or access attempts. You can drill down to greater detail from any graphical or text display.

The software can also be used to troubleshoot network bottlenecks. It can display a WLAN's architecture, with details that show the number of access points and connected stations. Its Expert Advice feature helps pinpoint potential problems with a description of the situation and suggests remedies. For example, it can identify a channel that may be overloaded with too many access points.

AirMagnet also identifies potential security vulnerabilities, such as access points that are improperly configured or have WEP disabled.

AirMagnet ensures that only bona fide customers can use its software by bundling it with a CompactFlash adapter card that's required to operate the software. A desktop version of the product is being considered, as well as software to perform analysis on captured data. The AirMagnet Handheld package is available now for $2,495. 

Editorial standards