Cisco Concedes to RF Interference Importance

Sometimes all it takes is a big name to validate a fragment of an industry. That’s how the switch players felt when Cisco Systems bought out Airespace. And that’s how Cognio feels, now that Cisco will be reselling its Spectrum Expert software/hardware combination.

“This relationship… validates interference as something that has to be dealt with in the enterprise,” says William Flanagan, vice president of marketing at Cognio. “Historically, infrastructure vendors said interference wasn’t an issue. This is a fundamental change in the market and how the vendors deal with it.”

Germantown, Maryland-based Cognio is no stranger to dealing with other companies, as vendors like Fluke Networks, AirMagnet and WildPackets all sell a branded version of Spectrum Expert as their own. The difference here is that Cisco will be strictly reselling the product, complete with Cognio branding, as part of Cisco’s SolutionsPlus Reseller Program to complement the Cisco Wireless Control System (WCS). Nothing special has been done to get the Spectrum Expert to work with Cisco infrastructure.

“From our perspective, the one thing that WCS doesn’t handle is the ‘what’ and ‘where’ of RF (radio frequency) interference,’ says Flanagan.

“It’s our job as vendors to make sure managing RF is as simple as possible, and that hasn’t always been the case,” says Ben Gibson, Cisco’s director of wireless marketing. “If you’re rolling out applications, like mobile voice or advanced security or guest connections… you need the RF environment to be humming along. Without managing it and identifying issues, the causes, what type of interference it is — if you’re not looking at that, you’re not doing [the network] justice.”

Pricing wasn’t announced but is described as “neutral,” so isn’t likely to be different from what Cognio sells it for ($3,995).

Spectrum Expert was just upgraded to version 3.0 in August to include a Channel Utilization Chart showing overuse of channels and a Signal-to-Noise Chart depicting how APs perform vs. interferers, among other items. The software runs on Windows computers and comes with a proprietary 802.11a/b/g card.

Both companies will also work together on market education efforts. Cisco will educate and train VAR partners on the joint solution, including Cognio’s tools with its WLAN infrastructure. Cognio is now a certified Cisco Technology Developer Partner Program member.

Cisco didn’t say it was a given, but intimated that it has a “vision for integration down the road,” perhaps marrying Spectrum Expert to its own wireless location and tracking abilities.

“This is just a start to this collaboration,” says Gibson. “We’ll come back with more information down the road, with more to say.”

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