: Storage, WLANs, Network Management Tools"> Storage Few products can match the manageability and flexibility of the McData Corp. Sphereon 4500 Fibre Channel switch.On the software side, storage management continues to be a hotbed of activity. We have been particularly impressed with the improvements we have seen in the SRM (storage resource management) market. All too often, IT managers fall into the trap of trying to solve problems with additional hardware. Using SRM software, administrators can quickly see who is using how much storage and which RAID units have the most available capacity. Fujitsu Software Technology Corp.s Softek Storage Manager is a great choice in this area. Although its $25,000 price may seem steep, this product will likely pay for itself very quickly by, for example, hunting down potentially illegal content that wastes precious storage space and by giving storage managers the ability to quantify storage usage and create chargeback policies to justify budgets. Henry Baltazar WLANs No ones sure whether 802.11b will be replaced by 802.11a before 802.11g gets baked, so Netgear Inc.s WAB102 a/b access point is a bargainand safebuy at $250. Linksys Group Inc.s WRT54G wireless 802.11g device is also a good buy but maybe only for the short term. At $130, its certainly a bargain. However, the 802.11g specification has not been ratified yet, so there is no guarantee that the Linksys gear will work with other 802.11g devices (see eWEEK Labs review of 802.11g-based hardware). Securing wireless LANs in the enterprise requires comprehensive planning and the use of tools that will fill the authentication and encryption gaps in the 802.11 standard. VPN (virtual private network)-based security appliances provide IT managers with an easy-to-use solution for locking down even the most complex heterogeneous wireless networks. One such product is ReefEdge Inc.s Connect System, which helps IT managers raise the security bar of any 802.11 WLAN (a, b or g) with a robust, scalable and easy-to-manage appliance system. Connect System provides built-in encryption for better performance, granular access control management and persistent roaming capabilities. Connect System comprises Connect Server, which costs $7,500, and Edge Controller, which starts at $1,800certainly not chump change, but the peace of mind the system affords is worth it. John Taschek and Francis Chu Network Management Tools Network problems that happen on or near the physical layer can often be tracked down and figured out with tools that are easy on the budget. Youll use them again and again, with their utility more than justifying their cost. Protocol analyzers from a variety of companies, including Fluke Networks Inc., WildPackets Inc., Network Associates Inc. and Network Instruments LLC, work with wire-line and wireless network infrastructures and are reliable standbys. One tool weve used in the lab often is Flukes LinkRunner Network Multimeter, a handheld testing device for front-line technicians. This device should be one of the first out of the bag when a connectivity problem arises. After the two most important trouble-shooting questions"Is it plugged in?" and "Is it turned on?"are answered in the affirmative, the next question should be: "Is the connection good?"And thats the one LinkRunner can answer. LinkRunner is priced at the high end of the spectrum for products of its kind, but, even so, its only $495. Competitor LanMaster 30 from Psiber Data Systems Inc. is priced at around $200. We always ask protocol analyzer vendors, "What problem can be seen in the air that cant be seen on the wire or by using the no-cost software that comes with the wireless access point?" The usual answer is a pause. And then comes the deluge of desperate explanations. There are two legitimate and cost-effective reasons for using a wireless protocol analyzer: conducting site surveys and scouting for rogue access points. AirMagnet Inc.s AirMagnet Handheld is a great tool for these tasks. The $2,495 tool is a best buy as far as this category is concerned. Three-thousand bucks is a small price to pay to either secure your companys WLAN or make sure one doesnt go up without your knowledge. Cameron Sturdevant
With its ability to upgrade firmware and capacity on the fly, without inducing downtime or performance degradation, the Sphereon 4500 has raised the bar for all hardware manufacturers.