WildPackets Tackles Wireless VOIP Management

WildPackets partners with Ralink to ensure quality control for laptops and smart phones accessing wireless VOIP networks.

Taking aim at the spotty connectivity of wireless VOIP, network analysis software maker WildPackets claims it has found a way to capture and analyze wireless data from multiple channels in real time.

This is a key ingredient to helping businesses monitor and manage wireless voice-over-IP applications. Networking vendors Cisco Systems, Vonage and Avaya sell their VOIP apps to thousands of corporate offices, but neither these product providers nor other network analysis and management vendors provide adequate tools to ensure service quality, according to WildPackets.

Click here to read about how IBM and Nortel are bringing VOIP to IBM's Power Systems.

The problem is that delays of more than a few hundred milliseconds lead to poor quality, or even to the dreaded dropped calls. This particularly happens as mobile devices roam from one channel to another.

This can be a huge problem for corporations with multiple mobile workers roving from remote office to remote office, trying to access the network via their laptops or BlackBerry, Nokia or Treo smart phones. Employees who can't access the network wirelessly are often stuck in no man's land.

Answering the call of the wild, unmonitored network

Up to this point, network management products for wireless VOIP were only able to scan one channel at a time, flitting from channel to channel. This left up to 90 percent of wireless data unmonitored, which means detecting problems in the service was practically impossible, WildPackets said.

To answer the call, WildPackets reconfigured its OmniPeek network analysis software, which lets network engineers find faults and fix problems to maximize network uptime, to offer real-time capture, aggregation and analysis across multiple channels.

WildPackets had help for this solution. The company partnered with WLAN (wireless LAN) chip maker Ralink Technology, whose MIMObility technology allows Wi-Fi applications to be extended from PCs to cell phones, PDAs and print servers, to hash out OmniPeek's support for USB wireless cards.

These cards serve as wireless packet capture devices. OmniPeek interfaces directly with multiple wireless cards configured to capture data from individual channels. OmniPeek then executes several captures concurrently and aggregates the channel data in a rolling graphical display.

WildPackets faces competition from EMC's Smarts product line, which offers VOIP availability, management and reporting capabilities, but so far not the multichannel protection for wireless gadgets that WildPackets is touting in OmniPeek.

IBM also offers network performance management for VOIP via the Tivoli Netcool line it gained from its 2005 purchase of Micromuse.