AirMagnet Survey PRO 8.0 Speeds WiFi Network Planning
AirMagnet Survey Pro 8.0 adds multiadapter support and real throughput coverage heat maps to help administrators understand WiFi coverage better and faster, but hardware interoperability could be of concern to some users.
AirMagnet, a Fluke Networks company, updated its Survey Pro product to include support for two concurrent sensors, theoretically allowing administrators to complete surveys faster and cheaper. And new features such as the throughput heat map and customizable reports provide better understanding of real network conditions out on the floor, with more manageable tools to help document and quantify those findings.
Survey Pro 8.0 costs $3,995, but customers using previous versions of Survey Pro that have an up-to-date support contract may upgrade to the new version for free. Like AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer Pro 9.0, which was released at the same time in November, Survey Pro 8.0 works on machines running 64-bit Windows operating systems. I tested Survey Pro 8.0 on two machines, each running a 64-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate. While Survey Pro 8.0 worked flawlessly on one test machine, it crashed frequently on the other, necessitating a system reboot each time to get the application going again.
AirMagnet engineers traced the problem to a conflict with an outdated NVidia video driver. I had the latest driver provided by the laptop manufacturer installed, but AirMagnet resolved the problem by installing the newest reference driver provided directly from NVidia's Website. AirMagnet officials mentioned they have discovered conflicts with a handful of NVidia drivers in the past, so wireless administrators experiencing similar problems should consider video driver updates as a potential resolution.
Survey Pro 8.0 breaks the multisensor barrier, adding the ability to use two sensors concurrently in order to perform multiple types of survey scans at the same time. While Survey Pro 8.0 may be used with any combination of adapters suggested in the documentation, AirMagnet recommends using its new multiadapter kit to ensure consistent results due to antenna placement and sensor type. It's basically the same kit that is sold for use with Analyzer Pro -- a five-port USB hub that can be taped to the back of a laptop screen with Proxim 8494-US 802.11 a/b/g/n USB sticks -- although the Survey Pro kit comes with two Proxim USB sticks and costs $345, since Survey Pro supports only two adapters for use at one time.
Using multiple sensors allowed me to complete the survey work in less time with fewer passes walking through the halls, as I could conduct different types of surveys simultaneously or could look at different radio bands at the same time. I found Survey Pro 8.0 offered three types of scans: a passive scan looking at signal strength from access point beacons, an active scan measuring coverage when associated with a specific network, and an active iPerf scan measuring throughput performance of an associated network.
Wireless network planners can also conduct surveys tailored toward Voice over WiFi performance, as long as they have a copy of AirMagnet's VoFi Analyzer installed on the same machine. (I did not have a license for VoFi Analyzer and was unable to test this functionality.) Users should note that AirMagnet does not currently offer a version of VoFi Analyzer for 64-bit operating systems, meaning this feature is currently available only to survey PCs running 32-bit operating systems.
There are limitations on which types of scans may be run at the same time. While I could run two active surveys or two passive surveys simultaneously, if I performed an active iPerf session, I could run only a passive scan on the second sensor. Apparently, this same restriction applies when running one VoFi scan as well.
Conceived to similarly do what Meru does through its E(z) RF Service Assurance Module via a walkabout tool rather than through the infrastructure itself, the iPerf survey measures real throughput obtained over the WiFi network. The results generated a coverage heat map that is designed to show wireless administrators exactly what data rates and real throughput performance will be at any point sampled during a survey walkabout, allowing me to better understand how 802.11n bells and whistles -- such as spatial multiplexing and beamforming -- translate into actual performance within my campus and building. On the heat map, found on the display tab, I could view the signal and noise levels, the measured bandwidth performance up and down, and the measured PHY data rates for every location along my survey path.
However, the in-application help documentation about using iPerf, which requires another PC on the network to act as the iPerf server, is in obvious need of updating, as the instructions include outdated and nonoperational links to the software and instructions needed to perform the test. In addition to previously available canned reports -- such as coverage by network name, access point, or channel -- Survey Pro 8.0 lets administrators create and customize their own templates. Custom templates include personalization options, such as letting a company change the text provided in report headers, change the logo, and add custom contact details. And on the content side of things, administrators can change or omit the introduction or methodology sections and customize technical details contained within the report to better match network design and performance objectives