Networking & Wireless | News

New Wi-Fi Sensor from Fluke Networks Eliminates Need for Ethernet

A company that specializes in network troubleshooting solutions has updated a sensor product line for Wi-Fi network monitoring to eliminate the need for Ethernet cabling. Fluke Networks' SmartEdge Sensor Series 4 for AirMagnet Enterprise is intended to help IT identify security, performance, and capacity problems by monitoring all Wi-Fi and radio frequency (RF) activity in a given area and sending the data to a management application for analysis. Because the sensor doesn't require Ethernet wiring, it can be installed in environments where cabling is difficult to put in or just not an option.

The SmartEdge Sensor features dual Wi-Fi radios, one to perform the Wi-Fi monitoring and collect data on the activities taking place, as expected, and the other to act as wireless backhaul.

As Fluke Product Marketing Manager Jesse Frankel explained, "You can think of [that second radio] as a mesh connection, where the sensor can communicate with the existing Wi-Fi infrastructure and be able to talk back to the server. You just need AC power to the sensor. You can configure it to connect securely to the Wi-Fi [network] and make that linkage back to the server without having to pull cable."

A third radio on the sensor does full-time RF interference detection. The sensor is 802.11n-compabile, which means, Frankel noted, that it works "with the latest generation of access points from Cisco, Aruba Networks, and Meru Networks."

For installations where Ethernet cable is readily available or inexpensive to install, the two Wi-Fi radios can be configured for simultaneous system checks. In that case, the product can run security monitoring (such as detecting rogue devices) on one radio and a health check function on the other. The software behind the sensor, AirMagnet Enterprise, is a wireless intrusion prevention system that includes Automated Health Check (ACH), a Fluke technology that does testing "from a client's perspective," Frankel said. That includes going through an authentication process, just as a laptop or tablet device would on a standard network, and generating "synthetic transactions as if it were a real user." As problems in availability or access are detected, IT is alerted.

"Oftentimes, there can be problems on wireless where there are congestion or coverage issues. Oftentimes you may be on a wireless laptop and have difficulty reaching resources [which] may be related to the wireless or something else in the infrastructure, such as an authentication issue," Frankel said. ACH can detect those problems, he noted, and immediately provide "very detailed information about what happened and pass that along in an alert so it can be investigated."

The sensor comes in two models, one with internal antennas and the other with external. The latter, said Frankel, is better suited for "bigger open spaces" where the exterior antennas give some advantage.

Frankel added that determining how many sensors would be needed for a given wireless implementation "depends."

"Mileage will vary," he said. "Typically, you'll need a sensor for a handful of APs--three to six."

According to Frankel, the company sells a "starter bundle," which includes AirMagnet Enterprise with three sensors, for "less than $10,000." The new offering is available immediately.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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