If you're one of those network managers plugging in the brand-new 802.11n access points being unveiled this week at Interop, you're going to need something to manage them.
Next week, AirMagnet will release upgraded versions of its two main WLAN management applications, with changes and new software tools to help network administrators design and monitor 802.11 deployments. The vendor is also incorporating some teaching aids to bring administrators up to speed on 11n.
The changes extend AirMagnet's initial, basic 802.11n support announced last year.
"11n is a vastly more complex standard than the previous ones," says Wade Williamson, director of product management for the software company. "Enterprise IT staff need more RF-specific expertise."
For WLAN management, the vendor sells AirMagnet Survey, for designing a wireless LAN, and AirMagnet Laptop Analyzer, a laptop wireless adapter plus software for real-time monitoring and management. Both have been upgraded to recognize 802.11n radios and their capabilities and features. Separately, the company offers the AirMagnet Enterprise intrusion detection/prevention product.
The 11n-updated package of both applications won a "Best of Interop" award for mobile and wireless this week in Las Vegas.
One new tool added to AirMagnet Survey Pro 6.0 is the WLAN Throughput Simulator. This is a program that records overall throughput, network overhead, device throughput and other variables of 11n radios. Using this data as a baseline, the new program lets you add new clients and access points and see the impact of these additions on 11n throughput. It's used to plan a migration to 11n or design an 11n network from scratch.
An administrator can use the simulator to see the aggregate network throughput or average throughput per node, or see the impact of legacy 802.11g or 11a radios, for example.
A second new program in Survey 6.0 is the AirMagnet Device Calculator, which actually is intended to help you figure out what performance an 11n device should be getting, given its specific set of features and options. The program relies on information input from an access point's data sheet. This information includes channel width mode, maximum frame size, short guard interval, maximum line rate, modulation coding schemes, number of spatial streams supported by the 11n chipset, and so on.
With this data, the calculator predicts the access point's theoretical throughput, which can be used both in designing a network and in monitoring by comparing the theoretical and actual throughput numbers.
A third new program, added to AirMagnet Laptop Analyzer Pro 8.0, is the AirMagnet Efficiency Tool. The program does a live analysis of the wireless uplink and downlink for a given device or connection, and displays it in chart form, to show which 11n-related network options (such as channel width) are working, and how optimally. Adjusting those options can improve the connection's performance. The software includes background information on the various options and how to make the best use of each.
Analyzer now makes use of the open source iPerf tool to measure TCP and UDP bandwidth metrics. The AirMagnet laptop card can associate with an 11n access point, generate traffic, and show the uplink and downlink performance and other characteristics of the connection.
Also part of the new release of both applications is an 11n "how-to" guide, dealing with a battery of common 11n questions and issues.
AirMagnet offers the Pro editions of Analyzer and Survey in a package, priced at US$7,305, which includes the custom AirMagnet wireless PC card. The new versions will be available May 6.