Q

Is there any network management software that can look after wireless routers, switches and access p

Wireless networking expert Lisa Phifer explains the types of network management software available for looking after wireless routers, switches and access points, in this response.

I am working on wireless network implementation and would like to find network management software that can look after wireless routers, switches and access points.

Most enterprise WLAN switch and access point vendors sell their own network management software that provides for planning, provisioning, and/or monitoring. A few examples include Aruba Networks Mobility Management System, Bluesocket BlueView Management System, Cisco Wireless Control System and Wireless LAN Solution Engine (WLSE), Colubris Networks NMS and RF Planner, Trapeze Networks RingMaster, and Siemens HiPath Wireless Convergence Software. These solutions excel at configuring and maintaining homogenous WLANs.

Many companies have heterogeneous WLANs, composed of a mixture of old and new equipment -- for example, legacy "fat" APs that have not yet been retired and a new set of WLAN switches and matching "thin" APs. Some of the above-mentioned vendor management products can recognize and perform limited management on other-vendors APs -- for example, placing generic APs into a WLAN floorplan so that they can be considered when it comes to channel assignments.

If this isn't good enough, or you have a long-term homogeneous WLAN strategy, then you'll want a vendor-independent WLAN management system like the AirWave Wireless Management Suite. That system provides for integrated monitoring, configuration, and maintenance of multi-vendor wireless networks composed of not only Wi-Fi, but also mesh and WiMAX devices.

Many enterprise-class WLAN devices offer industry-standard interfaces that can be utilized by third-party network management systems like HP OpenView. For example, many APs generate SNMP traps and/or write log messages to a syslog server. Some also have enterprise SNMP MIBs that can be used to query and update configuration parameters. This may not be your best bet to directly manage a large WLAN, but it is a way to integrate a WLAN management system into your enterprise NMS.

Finally, if you want a system to monitor the WLAN and/or take automated action to respond to security threats, look at a third-party Wireless Intrusion Prevention System like AirTight SpectraGuard Enterprise, Network Chemistry RFprotect Distributed, or AirMagnet Enterprise. Unlike a WLAN management system, which focuses on equipment configuration and verifying operational health, an overlay WIPS is dedicated to watching what goes on over the air full-time, analyzing that traffic to spot security threats and performance problems and then deal with them.

This was first published in March 2007

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