Troubleshooting network problems in the field requires portable smarts, the right physical connections and enough battery power to last several hours. Fluke Networks OptiView Series III Integrated Network Analyzer offers all this in an affordable $22,995 shoulder-sling form. The OptiView Series III INA also comes in an unwired model, for $17,995.
Among the new features in the OptiView Series III INA are a free string search that triggers packet captures of intermittent problems; 480MB of RAM for the capture buffer, up from 64MB in the OptiView Series II INA; 10/100/1,000 copper and integrated SFP (small form-factor pluggable) optical interfaces; an optional 802.11a/b/g wireless interface; and a removable hard drive, for better security.
In addition, standard protocol analyzer features are improved in the OptiView Series III INA. Expert packet decodes, for example, have been significantly improved in this version of the product, providing in-depth analysis of TCP and UDP (User Data Protocol) traffic.
The OptiView Series III INA comes from a long line of durable, well-engineered network and data communications test and measurement tools. Our tests showed that the product provides good performance and a plethora of diagnostics, despite the fact that it still uses Microsofts Windows XP instead of an optimized and hardened operating system.
Inside the OptiView Series III INA, Fluke Networks has replaced the data acquisition board with an interface for the 850-nanometer SFP optical Gigabit Ethernet transceiver module. The new board also adds the Gigabit Ethernet copper interface and optional wireless card.
During tests, eWEEK Labs was able to easily carry the OptiView Series III INA using the protective case and comfortable shoulder strap. As a field-deployed device, the OptiView Series III INA is well-designed, with an 800-by-600 LCD touch-screen and a one-button on-off switch on the face of the unit. The standard OptiView Series III INA weighs 5 pounds; the unit we tested included an external battery that brought the weight up to 6.6 pounds.
While we appreciated the newly—and drastically—increased capture buffer size, we had trouble using it during our tests. When we captured traffic up to the limit allowed by the OptiView Series III INA and then tried to save or view the captured information, the Intel Pentium M-based system—which is clocked at 1,100MHz with 500MB of RAM—took at least 10 minutes to process.
One way to cut down on the amount of data collected during capture is to add a free string match filter to the capture buffer. The free string match let us enter a search string to narrow the type of data in a packet capture. For example, we set up the system to look for the string "eweek" to determine when any e-mail or Web traffic containing the word "eweek" passed over the network.
The trigger string value can be set to match or ignore case and to look for ASCII, hex, decimal and a variety of integer and Unicode values. The free string triggers can be used individually or together.
The wireless network analyzer module is filled with useful tools for network field technicians. When equipped for wireless operation, the OptiView Series III INA comes with a somewhat directional antenna. A built-in utility helped us locate wireless access points throughout eWeeks downtown San Francisco offices. When we were on the same floor as an access point, we found the access point within 5 minutes. Since radio waves travel between floors, we also were able to locate access points as far as four floors beneath our test lab.
Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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