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AirMagnet Distributed Covers the Entire WLAN

Walking around with a WLAN analyzer in your hand isn't enough anymore -- it certainly won't let you see the entire network at once. So AirMagnet is getting distributed.

Specifically, the company behind the laptop and handheld-based WLAN analyzer tools is releasing AirMagnet Distributed 1.0, a system that Chia-Chee Kuan, CTO and vice president of engineering at AirMagnet says will "enforce enterprise grade security, reliability and performance."

Kuan calls AirMagnet Distributed an "overlaid monitoring system" which tracks what's happening in the airwaves over top the existing wireless and wired infrastructure. The system is infrastructure agnostic, though it is targeted to work with enterprise class products from Symbol, Cisco, Proxim, and the like. It consists of server software, a management console with the usual AirMagnet interface that can run from any PC or PDA (Windows or PocketPC based) with an IP connection to the server, and wireless sensors deployed in your laptop or alongside access points for gathering packet data from the airwaves.

The remote intelligent sensors -- Atheros-chip based hardware from SENAO running an embedded Linux OS -- are laid out with one sensor per every 100 by 200 feet of floor space, depending on the structure and signal obstructions -- with a general ratio of sensor per every five or six access points, maybe more for heavy performance monitoring.

"We have a deployment rule of thumb -- it doesn't have to be one to one," says Kuan.

There's also software-based sensors that can run on mobile clients running Windows 2000 or XP if the laptops have supported cards (NetGear's WAB501 and Cisco's PCM352, LMC352, PCI352). Similar to what is in the standalone AirMagnet, the footprint of the sensor software is small so it should not interfere with regular use.

The sensors are running the AirWISE analysis engine to do management and analysis of all 802.11 channels, whether for 802.11a, b, or g. They contain several alarms to alert administrator of problems with security or network reliability.

AirMagnet Distributed will have a starting price of $6,995, which includes the management console, server software, and four sensors. Extra sensors are around $500. An option is the AirMagnet Reporter, which automatically can create over forty types of reports based on data from the management server. It will cost about $1,995. The products should be available in the beginning of June.