Network testing, 1-2-3

We look at three hardware platforms that will keep the data flowing

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The OptiView INA is also the only box in this roundup capable of acting as a wireless as well as cable-based network tester. Using this latter option requires a wireless PC card adapter as well as a different analysis application. Fluke has yet to announce whether it will integrate its LAN analysis software with its WLAN analysis software suites. The current WLAN analysis package is a utilitarian toolkit that starts out with a basic view that shows all relevant WLAN information on a single screen, including signal strength, a channel view, and a spectrum view.

The software has excellent tracking features, which is nice because occasionally an 802.11b user can drag an entire 802.11g access point population from 20Mbps down to 5.5Mbps. Or some yahoo decides to plug an unprotected Linksys access point into the network jack in his office to play with some new PDA toy. The OptiView can track these culprits via an interface with a visual reading the closer you get to any designated access point or end node. And if you’ve equipped your access points with SNMP, this application can also get performance detail by launching the MIB browser.

OptiView is not our first choice to do verification testing in large installations. But for large networks, it’s still an excellent investment for network troubleshooting and to get some true grit verification of what your more expensive testing tools are telling you. And to midsize networks, the OptiView is the most useful mix of testing, monitoring, and troubleshooting tools we’ve seen.

For ongoing network management, network testing is crucial. Networks evolve constantly, much like politics or a virulent social disease. The only way to keep from getting devoured by this evolution is to monitor and anticipate it. Success means happy users and a budget process that won’t embarrass you in the boardroom. Failure can mean quality time with a deep fryer. It’s necessary, it’s beneficial, and any of these tools make it easier than ever. These solutions we looked at span the spectrum of products, so admins will need to determine which best meet their company’s needs.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Ease of use (25.0%)
Configuration (10.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Performance (15.0%)
Administration (25.0%)
Scalability (15.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Acterna DA-3400 Ethernet Data Network Analyzer 8.0 8.0 8.0 9.0 7.0 7.0 7.8
Fluke Networks OptiView hardware analyzers 9.0 7.0 8.0 9.0 8.0 6.0 8.0
Spirent SmartBits TeraMetrics XD 7.0 8.0 8.0 9.0 7.0 9.0 7.8

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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