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Toward More Reliable Wireless With AirMagnet Enterprise 10

If the phone isn't ringing, then your wireless users must not be feeling any pain, right? That can be a dangerous assumption in large, complicated wireless networks. Some issues may not be crystallized enough to raise your clients' ire, but the fact remains that performance is degraded. AirMagnet's latest Enterprise version wants to make hard-to-find problems more obvious even as the WLAN gets ever more complex.

At its simplest, Fluke Networks' AirMagnet Enterprise is a security and performance overlay for wireless networks. Though I'm a huge fan and a paying customer for other tools in the AirMagnet lineup, I can't help but somewhat think of Enterprise 10 as the feature set that every WLAN vendor ought to natively provide, given the cost of market-leading enterprise wireless solutions and their vendor-locked management systems. But, like it or not, there are gaps in the offerings of many wireless management platforms, and so it is a good thing that AirMagnet Enterprise 10 can pick up the slack.

With Version 10, AirMagnet Enterprise makes some utilities a bit more effective while also offering up a new trick or two. At the top of my happy-to-see list is the Software Sensor Agent (SSA) that takes the functionality of a hardware-based sensor and makes it flexibly deployable on a Windows-based client PC. A couple of points are in order here. First, the concept is wonderful in that the SSA can be added to laptops or even desktop PCs deployed around the enterprise (just add USB wireless adapter), and a battery of wireless intrusion prevention and performance tests can be scheduled to periodically run. Automatic Health Checks exercise the likes of authentication servers, DNS and throughput SLAs automatically from a number of locations on the network, thanks to the low-cost SSA that essentially acts as a force multiplier for WLAN support.

The down side? SSA is not available as a mobile app or for Macintosh yet, which does limit its abilities somewhat. I'd hope that this gets rectified soon.

In addition to the new SSAs and automatic health checks, AirMagnet Enterprise 10 is also upping the ante with daily automatic downloads of the latest threat signatures with its Dynamic Threat Update capability. This is an area where competing tools can get stagnant by days, weeks or even months by not updating until there is a major product release. AirMagnet shines in this regard, and also has compliance with PCI and HIPAA requirements in mind as a complete security and performance-monitoring framework.

Rounding out the announcement for Enterprise 10, AirMagnet now demystifies the usually murky world of Meru Networks' wireless environments by being able to actually show the client-to-AP interactions that aren't obvious in the Virtual Cell architecture. And, a good rogue detection view is made even better with a number of enhancements and easier navigation. Good stuff.

AirMagnet was a class act even before the 2009 acquisition by Fluke Networks, and has continued to evolve to meet the needs of enterprise WLAN support in a rapidly changing space. As wireless continues to "unify" with the wired network or to push it out further to the margins, having a solid handle on what goes on in the air is mandatory despite the complexities. Being presented lists of rogues and nearby noise-makers isn't enough anymore; replicating the client experience automatically for signs of network service trouble is a must. If your WLAN vendor can't effectively give you what you need in this regard, chances are good that AirMagnet Enterprise 10 can.

I am a paying AirMganet customer using other products.