Vernier update keeps Wi-Fi users under control

Vernier's updated Wi-Fi management platform allows admins to deny network access to problem users and limit bandwidth so that unruly downloaders can't clog the airwaves.

Vernier Networks Inc. today announced the availability of an updated version of its wireless LAN security and management platform. The product is designed to help organizations manage increasingly complex Wi-Fi networks and curb the threats posed by worms and viruses.

The wireless gateway vendor's platform, version 4.0, centralizes the management of large wireless networks, creates more detailed user profiles, and provides access capabilities at layer 3 and layer 4.

The product also allows network managers to link bandwidth requirements with user profiles, enabling certain users to have a guaranteed throughput. The platform has detailed reporting capabilities, so network administrators can see how the airwaves are being used.

Version 4.0 is also designed to help companies limit the damage to the wireless network after a worm or virus attack. Administrators can quarantine infected users, who are directed to a Web page that informs them that they have a virus and cannot connect to the network.

Jim Madden, the manager of academic network operations for the University of California at San Diego, said that he has been using an older version of Vernier's platform and that he was a beta-tester for the new release. The university's Wi-Fi network consists of 5,000 registered users and 850 access points.

Madden said that he has found many improvements in the new product. For instance, because students and visitors can access the Wi-Fi network with their own laptops, Madden said, students can easily introduce a virus or worm to the wireless network.

While Vernier's product cannot identify the presence of an attack (Madden uses different tools for that), once an attack is identified, Vernier's system allows him to quarantine the infected device, limiting the impact of the attack.

One of the most important improvements has been the centralized management console, Madden said, because it makes it easier to manage such a large network. With the detailed user profiles it provides, he can deny access to problem users and even limit the bandwidth available to students who may be hogging the network with large streaming files.

Madden said that Vernier's management-friendly offering is beneficial because, as wireless networks become more complex, ease of management becomes increasingly important.

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And wireless network management is getting more attention in the market, said Wai Sing Lee, an analyst with San Antonio-based research firm Frost & Sullivan.

Lee said that a number of companies began by addressing security problems. But as standards-based approaches to security have improved, Vernier and other gateway vendors -- such as ReefEdge Networks Inc. and Bluesocket Inc. -- have focused on narrow security concerns, like viruses and network management.

"Network administrators are control freaks; they like to control every aspect of a network," Lee said. "This product should help them out."

Vernier's platform costs about $10,000 for 1,000 users. The company is based in Mountain View, Calif.

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