AirMagnet Upgrades Planner and Survey Products

AirMagnet has issued an upgrade to their Planner and Survey products that assist network administrators in planning for and verifying the coverage and quality of their Wi-Fi networks.

September 10, 2007

3 Min Read
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AirMagnet has issued an upgrade labeled 5.0, almost exactly a year to theday from their previous major release, to their Planner and Survey productsthat assist network administrators in planning for and verifying thecoverage and quality of their Wi-Fi networks.
Some enterprise Wi-Fi vendors such as Meru Networks downplay the need forplanning tools while others such as Trapeze Networks and Aruba Networks havebuilt their own (Aruba was recently slapped with a patent violation lawsuitfrom Wireless Valley regarding two patents dealing with 3D visualization).Still others such as Colubris Networks and Xirrus have OEM deals in place.For those enterprise who want their own, there are only a few on the market.Wireless Valley was purchased by Motorola some time ago but remains aseparate subsidiary; Ekahau is another significant player. Wireless IDs/IPSvendor AirTight Networks has their SpectraGuard Planner and also offers itas a service. And there's also EDX Wireless, which deals in many morewireless technologies than just Wi-Fi.
Unless IT wants to totally wing it, most organizations do some kind ofplanning, even if it's as basic as using an access point, measuring thesignal levels, and shuffling it around to other points in the building. Forthose who want to remove at least some of the tediousness away from theprocess a planning tool comes in very handy. AirMagnet's Planner now addsan advisor that optimizes the layout of APs rather than requiring the userto manually place them on the imported map. Certain areas can be marked aslocations where APs cannot be placed, to avoid those locations such assupply closets or rest rooms where an AP may not be acceptable. The currentrelease doesn't place dual-mode radios simultaneously, a feature gap thatneeds to be addressed as organizations transition from 2.4 GHz 802.11b/g toAPs that also support 5 GHz 802.11n.
Post-install survey tools aren't as often provided by infrastructurevendors, but many of the same stand-alone player supply a solution. Thisrelease of Survey adds a differential view between surveys. This can comein handy when users complain about degradation or if changes have been madeto the wireless network in order to improve coverage and capacity. A topview displays the overlay, with varying colors for loss or increase insignal strength, quality, and more, while the bottom half of the screenplaces the before and after surveys side by side. Wireless adapters can nowbe simulated as well. Some cards have better or worse gain due andsimulating them provides a more accurate view of what can be expected interms of coverage. A software tool provides calibration for that feature.Also added is an RF spectrum heat map that shows the power level for eachchannel at any given point on the map, helping display areas of unusualspectrum traffic (this requires the PRO version of Survey and AirMagnet'sSpectrum Analyzer). Rather than use Microsoft MapPoint which costs extra,AirMagnet now uses Microsoft Virtual Earth (delivered online via WindowsLive Local, free registration required).
AirMagnet has included some helpful additions to their software, but itappears to lacking in regards to pre-802.11n and dual-radio support.Although mass deployments of pre-802.11n Draft 2.0 access points are monthsaway, organizations are already now taking their first look at new products,even if it's just an access point within their own department or in ahighly-trafficked location. In AirMagnet's defense, the enterprise WLANinfrastructure vendors themselves are still gathering the performancecharacteristics of their own products and their competitors have made noneof their own announcements around pre-802.11n, but AirMagnet should notneedlessly delay.

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