Analyzing Wireless Networks

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Network Instruments Monday plans to launch an upgrade to its network analysis product line that adds features for monitoring and analyzing the performance of wireless networks.

The company's protocol analyzer product, Observer 8.1, monitors traffic across wired and 802.11 wireless networks to identify and analyze problems such as network congestion, load- balancing errors and security breaches, said Douglas Smith, president of Network Instruments, Minneapolis.

"We listen to the flow of communications on the wire, decode it and turn it into readable statistics," Smith said.

With its new support for wireless technology, Observer 8.1 collects statistics on network speed and signal strength, and tracks metrics such as jitter, packet loss and realtime protocol to realtime control protocol utilization, Smith said.

In addition, Observer 8.1 tracks historical performance data, so solution providers can help clients track network performance over time, Smith said.

"If you're troubleshooting, what you saw two weeks ago is available to you," he said.

The product line supports 802.11b wireless cards from Cisco Systems, Symbol Technologies, Nortel Networks and Intel. In addition, Network Instruments recently signed a deal to support 802.11a cards from Atheros Communications, Smith said.

Network Instruments' ability to provide high performance for a low price sets it apart from its competitors, said Richard Perlstein, vice president of sales and senior network analyst at Pacific DataCom Systems, a Garden Grove, Calif.-based solution provider.

However, the company lacks the name recognition of, for example, Network Associates' Sniffer Technologies product group, according to Perlstein.

"Network Instruments is the best-kept secret in the world," he said.

The Observer product line starts at $995, and the upgrade to version 8.1 is free to users of version 8.x.

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