Observer 9.0 Expands Scope

Network Instruments LLC (NI), a privately held company located in Minneapolis, Minn., this week announced the release of Observer 9.0, the latest edition of its network monitoring and protocol analyzing software. It’s the first to have a 4 gigabyte (GB) memory buffer for capturing network information.

Douglas Smith, president of NI, calls the release a major one for the company. Observer 9.0 comes in many flavors: the basic tools are $995, the Expert version is $2,895, and the full Observer Suite which adds an SNMP console is $3,995. It works with probes, both software based (installed on client systems) or hardware based (which sell for $995) that report back with wired and wireless network information.

“All the sniffers out there (except AirMagnet) do the LAN…but as wireless moves into the enterprise, vendors need to address wireless as just another part of the overall network,” says Smith. “One device can do both wired and wireless simultaneously.”

Observer 9.0 runs on the Network Instruments Distributed Network Analysis (NI-DNA) distributed architecture. When running on a computer, two programs are launched, the console for displaying network information and the probe program, which does the data collection and data crunching, as well. Smith stresses that unlike other probes that wrap data and send it to be analyzed the probe software or hardware is smart enough to take care of the data analysis before sending it to the console screen.

The Observer 9.0 user interface has been enhanced to reduce the number of clicks — Smith says if something took six clicks, they tried to get it to four; if it was four, down to two, etc. The program’s overall look has been updated, from the buttons to the filters that look more like a flowchart for easy reading.

Perhaps the major update is the addition of the 4GB buffer. Smith says that most sniffers that run under Windows are limited to a 100MB buffer, but NI found a way around the limitation so it could get a non-swapped buffer forty times larger.

“We have a forty times longer time frame for people to go back and track what happened on the network,” says Smith.

Other additions include a wireless site survey mode; concurrent channels scans for 802.11a, b, and g; a network summary mode for drilling into data; and integration with third-party products like HP OpenView, which is in wide-spread use for monitoring wired LANs.

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