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Sniffer update has a nose for data capture

The company behind Sniffer offers an updated network performance tool, showing that the venerable packet analysis product could be poised for new life.

Recuperating from a failed marriage with software maker McAfee Inc., the young company behind the venerable stable of Sniffer packet analysis offerings is poised to give the product new life.

San Jose, Calif.-based Network General Corp. has announced a new version of its stream-to-disk, long-term capture tool, InfiniStream 2.0, augmenting the Sniffer line of network performance analysis products.

InfiniStream enables admins to gauge the performance of Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet networks by providing not only real-time overviews, but detailed information about specific data packets, IP addresses and network components.

The new release offers more than four terabytes of storage capacity for real-time data capture, giving IT staff a comprehensive view of not only current network conditions, but also events that took place several weeks ago.

InfiniStream's network analysis capability helps admins solve network performance problems more quickly, and provides uninterrupted network performance, said Rich van de Groenekan, InfiniStream product line manager at Network General, in a statement. "It gives IT professionals the tools to resolve problems today and prevent them from recurring tomorrow."

Stephen Elliot, a senior analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass., said this release is a good example of Network General executing on its product plans announced shortly after the deal, and shows further resolve to continue to develop core technologies.

Dominic Bellino, a Chicago-based network engineer for a top U.S. telecommunications provider, said he chose to deploy InfiniStream because it easily mines weeks of data and generates graphical analysis of network and application performance.

"InfiniStream gathers massive amounts of data," said Bellino, "and displays it in a way executives can make quick and easy decisions on which direction the network infrastructure needs to go."

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Elliot confirmed that the upgrades in this release provide users with the ability to more easily find network performance problems through continuous capture of a data stream, and a high-level dashboard with drill-down capabilities.

Elliot said Sniffer tools have a reputation for being excellent at capturing low-level data, but sometimes too much of it.

"Now, this release is really looking to synthesize the data, improve the display of it and provide a user with the ability to see real time or a historical perspective of an end-to-end transaction," Elliot said. "In the past, this capability would require a lot more data snapshots and split-screen analysis."

The update also highlights an important turning point for Sniffer. Experts acknowledge the product languished under the ownership of Network Associates, which last year took the name of its popular McAfee antivirus software. Last April, McAfee sold Sniffer to an investment group for $235 million, and that group then formed Network General.

Elliot indicated this announcement is important to existing Sniffer customers because it shows the company is making the product easier to use. He said that ease is also important to potential customers that lack "Sniffer expertise" as it's becoming a product usable by entry-level and experts alike.

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