New tools announced for planning, securing 802.11n networks

One analyst cautions not to rely on predictive tools too much and to measure actual performance once 802.11n is installed.

As faster wireless 802.11n networks gain adoption, organizations want to deploy planning tools to deal with complexities in rolling out the new technology and to keep the networks secure.

Two vendors separately announced such products this week. AirTight Networks announced an 802.11n sensor platform and a new version of its SpectraGuard Planner product for 802.11n infrastructure that also offers tools to plan for wireless intrusion prevention systems. Motorola, meanwhile, announced the Motorola 11n LANPlanner.

John Kemon, program manager for information systems security at the US Agency for International Development in Washington, said he won't be deploying any 802.11n access points because of agency policy, but he's interested in the new 802.11 n sensor platform as an enhancement to AirTight's SpectraGuard Enterprise appliance. The AID is using the SpectraGuard hardware to detect, report and remove rogue wireless access points running in 802.11 a/b/g on the agency's wired network.

With the AirTight enhancements for 802.11n, the agency expects to see benefits, Kemon said. "We are very interested in the detection and prevention of 802.11n threats," he said in an email. The agency has not developed a policy recognizing Wi-Fi and, as such, has no Wi-Fi access points at all.

The new 802.11n sensor platform will be available in mid-September, AirTight said, at US$1,295 per sensor. A starter kit with the SpectraGuard Enterprise appliance and two 802.11n sensors, as well as site planning software for security, will start at US$9,995.

Troy Wood, a senior network administrator for John C. Lincoln Health Network in Phoenix, said he is in the planning stages of deploying up to 50 access points from Extreme Networks running 802.11n and is interested in the new SpectraGuard Planner 5.0 release for its planning and calculation tools. "With n being new to us, it will help with the learning curve," he said in an e-mail.

AirTight said the SpectraGuard update will ship in August, starting at US$2,495 for a single seat license.

Connect802 plans to use the new Motorola 11n LANPlanner in its integration work with clients deploying 802.11n networks, said Connect802 CEO Joe Bardwell. Because 802.11n is based on Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) technology with multiple antennas and radios, "it becomes a very different engineering animal" from 802.11a/b/g networks, which justifies the need for a special planning tool, Bardwell said.

Bardwell's experience with 802.11n installations thus far shows that the location of 802.11n access points is not what an 802.11a/b/g engineer would expect. "With b and g you want a line of site from the user to the access point, so you might put the access point in the middle of the conference room," he said. "But with n, putting the AP in the middle of the room would defeat the purpose since MIMO wants a scattering of the signals" to be the most effective.

Connect802 resells a variety of 802.11n equipment, but will not be reselling the Motorola 11n LANPlanner, Bardwell said. He said Motorola LANPlanner is the only predictive modeling product with 3D capability, which helps lessen the need to make adjustments once the network is launched. Others on the market only provide two dimensional models inside of Computer Aided Design applications, he said.

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