A Silicon Valley startup this week will launch its flagship product, a handheld application that helps IT managers administer and trouble-shoot WLANs.
AirMagnet Inc.s AirMagnet runs on Pocket PC devices—beta trials have run on Compaq Computer Corp.s iPaq device. Depending on the device, the hardware for AirMagnet is a PC Card or a CompactFlash Type 2 card equipped with an 802.11b wireless LAN connection.
Once the device detects a WLAN, AirMagnet collects performance statistics, pinpoints problems and suggests possible solutions—although the first version of the product is more about pinpointing problems than solving them, according to officials.
"A device like the AirMagnet iPaq is practical from a field service standpoint," said Nathan Lemmon, senior technical adviser for wireless systems development at Federal Express Corporate Services, a division of FedEx Corp., in Memphis, Tenn., which has been beta testing the product. "Instead of giving a field service tech [an Intel Corp.] Pentium laptop with a sniffer package, wed rather give him something that he can slide in, like a holster, to his belt."
The installation surveying feature helps IT managers figure out how best to lay out the LAN by measuring the signal strength of each access point and offers a detailed analysis of each signal.
A security assessment feature detects unauthorized devices on the network and wireless denial-of-service attempts, among other threats. It also sounds an alarm when it detects that a user on the network has not engaged Wired Equivalent Privacy security on any given access point.
Trouble-shooting features include a connection mismatch tool that detects incompatible keys, transmission rates and radio frequency channels; a packet capture and decoding function; and a transmission failure analysis tool.
Future versions of the product will include location-based technology, which will make it easier to find a problem access point once the software detects it.
"Right now, its a little like a Geiger counter," said Dean Au, president of AirMagnet, in Sunnyvale, Calif.
The AirMagnet handheld application is available now for $2,495. Federal Express Lemmon said this price is a bit steep but still less expensive and more convenient than buying a decent laptop and installing sniffer software on it.
"If youre getting in on the ground floor of a new product, youre going to pay a good bit for it," Lemmon said.