Vendors to address wireless LAN foibles

Vendors to address wireless LAN foibles

At the N+I tradeshow in the US this week, industry pundits will attempt to address concerns among wireless LAN users regarding management and security as well as deployment of mixed 802.11b and 802.11a nets.

Among the companies announcing new technology will be Network Associates' Sniffer Technologies business, which is unveiling software for managing wireless LANs from a handheld device.

Sniffer Portable Wireless PDA software runs on a Compaq iPaq handheld outfitted with Microsoft's Pocket PC technology and an 802.11b card, and lets network administrators learn the effective range of access points and detect intruders by surfing wireless LAN channels. The new $US4000 software can feed data to a desktop or laptop-based edition of Sniffer Wireless for in-depth analysis.

Network managers "are going to want to know how well their access points are working, and this tool will pick up on interference in different parts of a building. It lets users know how effective those access points are," says Eric Hemmendinger, a research director with Aberdeen Group.

A similar product, from startup AirMagnet, recently made its debut.

Elsewhere on the management front, Finisar will highlight a new version of its Surveyor performance management and testing software that works with 802.11b wireless LANs from companies such as 3Com, Cisco and Symbol Technologies. The software, which sits on a laptop outfitted with a wireless LAN card, performs seven-layer packet and traffic analysis of radio frequency signals. It also can be used to strategically place access points and can recommend corrective actions when it detects problems on a wireless LAN. The software, which the company says will likely cost about $8000, will be available for 802.11b nets in June.

Separately, Agere Systems will introduce a program for monitoring its wireless LAN access points. The software, which runs on Windows machines, promises to give administrators information on network traffic and let them configure access points remotely. A software licence to manage up to five access points costs $1000; an unlimited licence costs twice that.

Also next week, Symbol will debut MobiusGuard, software for its Spectrum24 wireless LAN access points that promises improved security. MobiusGuard includes code from Columbitech that handles encryption and authentication between clients and servers, and maintains a session even if clients move between local and wide-area wireless nets. Symbol plans to add virtual LAN capabilities as well.

Agere and Symbol are also releasing plug-in cards that will add a 5GHz 11a transceiver to their existing 802.11b access points.

In a related introduction, Tality will demonstrate an 802.11 Media Access Control software stack that will let chipmakers support 802.11b and 802.11a, paving the way for more advanced dual-mode products. A single network interface card with such a chip could communicate with either 802.11b or 802.11a access points.

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