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Aruba Scans The Air With Onboard Spectrum Analysis

Aruba Networks has announced its new Spectrum Analysis Module. This software component works with Aruba's existing fleet of 802.11n access points to scan the airwaves and provide a view of interference on an enterprise WLAN. The Spectrum Analysis module will be included in Aruba's wireless intrusion and protection service (WIPS), available in the third quarter of 2010.

By using the Spectrum Analysis Module, customers will be able to toggle one of the radios in Aruba's 802.11n AP-105 and AP-120 series access points to switch into a spectrum analyzer, scanning the airwaves for interference in both the 2.4 and 5 Ghz spectra. Through the wireless controller's web interface, administrators are offered the same RF-focused readings, including fast Fourier transform, a spectrogram view and a channel utilization view.  For the less RF-centric, Aruba's spectrum analysis also features the ability to define and classify the sources of interference, identifying things like microwaves, Bluetooth devices and wireless video cameras, giving the administrators clues on where to look for interference.  Lastly, the spectrum analysis module will offer advice for remediation within the product, again offering aid to administrators who know more about the network than the airwaves.

The spectrum analysis feature is certainly a positive for Aruba's customers who were early adopters of 802.11n. The company has designed its 802.11n access points to support this feature from day one, so every one of their next-generation wireless products will be ready to go. Unfortunately, the spectrum analysis solution is not geared to be an always-on option. Analysis of the air requires a dedicated use of an access point's radio, making it unavailable for client connections.

Still, in its current incarnation, the solution is a cost-effective alternative to discrete spectrum-analysis tools, and would certainly avoid the majority of the "truck rolls" that administrators would have to do to troubleshoot wireless interference issues at remote sites. However, as the wireless LAN moves towards the mission-critical network status in most enterprises, Aruba's spectrum analysis will have to move from an on-demand troubleshooting tool to a more proactive protector of the airspace. Today, however, customers who have invested in Aruba's platform are certainly getting a nice addition at no additional expense.