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Tools Ease WLAN Management

Wireless LANs give users a tremendous amount of freedom, but they also give network administrators a daunting task of management. Part of the difficulty of managing WLANs is due to their open nature -- wireless data does, after all, travel through the air.

Complicating matters is the fact that devices with intelligence equivalent to that of sophisticated switches are being pushed beyond the edge closet and farther from admins' chairs. Also, access points (APs) installed in enterprise ceilings and on walls, with their slew of configuration parameters and the ever-changing nature of radio frequency (RF), can make managing WLANs difficult and time consuming.

If you use a single access point vendor, solutions like Cisco's Wireless LAN Solutions Engine (WLSE) are enough. By adopting a vendor-agnostic (or nearly so) management platform, you'll give yourself room to maneuver when it comes time to upgrade and add on to your network.

That's where AirWave's and Wavelink's management platforms come in. They each support a multitude of AP vendors and models and aim to take the hassle out of administering vendor-diverse WLANs. They also promise to scale to meet the changing management requirements of your infrastructure as it grows.

In our Syracuse University Real World Labs, I set up a test bed subnet on which I installed both AirWave's AirWave Management Platform (AMP) 3.0 and Wavelink's Mobile Manager 5.7. To test their management capabilities, compatibility and their access point discovery abilities, I also placed a slew of diverse APs on the same subnet, both current and legacy devices. In addition, I put one AP a router-hop away on another subnet to test each platform's abilities to discover and manage APs on remote networks.

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