Fluke Networks is unveiling new 802.11ac optimization features within its existing wireless network monitoring, planning and troubleshooting tools -- the Fluke AirMagnet Survey PRO and the AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer PRO-- for businesses that are upgrading to the faster, higher capacity gigabit Wi-Fi.
Dropping 802.11ac wireless LAN (WLAN) technology into legacy Wi-Fi environments without updating wireless management tools isn't an option because Wi-Fi requirements have become more complex, with more bandwidth-hungry applications and more mobile devices joining enterprise networks. If businesses want to get the most out of both new and existing WLAN investments, they must upgrade their monitoring and troubleshooting technology, said Olga Shapiro, program manager for test and measurement practice at the Mountain View, California-based Frost and Sullivan.
"A few years ago, [wireless network monitoring tools] were considered more of a nice-to-have, [but] with the development of the latest technologies, deploying monitoring and troubleshooting solutions became a priority. As networks increasingly become more complex and more prone to impairments, the demand for such solutions is on the rise," she said.
Fluke AirMagnet upgraded with faster speeds, denser environments in mind
The 802.11ac wireless standard operates only in the 5GHz spectrum, a departure from legacy Wi-Fi standards that relied heavily on the 2.4 GHz spectrum. Many enterprises designed their legacy WLANs to be efficient for the 2.4 GHz spectrum. The upgrade to a 5GHz-only network without proper planning could lead to performance problems, said Dilip Advani, director of product marketing for the Fluke Networks AirMagnet and AirCheck product lines.
Fluke AirMagnet Survey PRO's new planning capabilities help engineers design an 802.11ac network, with specifications on the number of necessary access points and their optimal location and configuration settings, Fluke said. Network engineers can use AirMagnet Survey PRO to determine whether their existing Ethernet and power infrastructure can support the new 802.11ac access points and to estimate the added load the new access points could have on the power infrastructure, or the performance impacts it could make within certain areas of the enterprise. The tool improves an engineer's ability to budget for an 802.11ac project and eases any transition problems that occur during the project, Advani said.
Fluke AirMagnet Planner goes a step further than traditional site survey tools by offering measurement and validation of Wi-Fi technology, Frost's Shapiro said. “Traditional site survey and planning tools are no longer capable of giving the needed results [because] signal strength does not indicate levels of performance anymore. End users need to have complete visibility on-site [and] into 802.11ac traffic, without any disruption of data services to clients or impact of [their performance] access points."
"It's not just the speed, but the actual throughput that the user is going to experience that matters, so being able to measure the true performance is very critical," Fluke's Advani said.
After the IT team deploys an 802.11ac network, it can use the newly-updated Fluke AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer PRO to troubleshoot the 802.11ac environment. Many enterprises use network analysis functionality built into their wireless access to troubleshoot the WLAN, but they have to take their access points offline to use these features. With Wi-Fi increasingly used as the primary access network, engineers may prefer to solve the problem without any additional downtime, Advani said.
AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer PRO can identify the root cause of poor connectivity performance in 802.11ac WLANs. The product, once released, will also feature a 3x3 802.11ac portable analysis tool formonitoring and troubleshooting Gigabit Wi-Fi access points in both enterprise and service provider environments, Advani said.
Wireless network monitoring needed for emerging Wi-Fi standards
As new WLAN standards emerge to support demanding mobile devices and applications, businesses also shouldn't trust a vendor's claims on speed and throughput. Wi-Fi troubleshooting and verification tools are critical for 802.11ac, Frost and Sullivan's Shapiro said.
Many enterprises often rely on the wireless monitoring tools native to their wireless LAN products, but these don't always provide the insight an IT team needs to make sure the network is keeping up with user and device demands.
Standalone, portable wireless monitoring and diagnostic tools are especially helpful for 802.11ac, said Craig Mathias, principal at the advisory firm Farpoint Group, based in Ashland, Massachusetts. "Being able to [quickly see] what [devices] are on, what is available and how much power is being put out and signal strength is very valuable. These tools are always recommended."
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