The distributed version of Fluke Networks OptiView Workgroup Analyzer, a hand-carried senior technician tool, works well even without a human around. In my tests, OptiView Workgroup Analyzer performed like a champ, even stripped of its touchscreen interface.
The distributed market already has a number of solid players, including Network Instruments Observer Suite and Network Associates Sniffer Distributed. These companies provide hardware probes, but none depends on hardware quite as much as Fluke, which is betting that IT administrators who are overseeing Gigabit Ethernet LANs will want a permanent probe in remote wiring closets.
Based on tests, this isnt such a bad idea, although the product, which started shipping last month, will set organizations back $7,000 to $14,000 per unit, depending on the number and type of interfaces to be monitored.
The device is a full-featured RMON and SNMP probe, as well as a packet analyzer and network monitoring tool. I had no trouble using it with my test network to see problems such as duplicate IP addresses, protocol errors and top network users.