Fluke Networks OptiView XG: A Hummer On the Network
There's no doubt that powerful network assessment tools can help you optimize your deployment and create a model for other sites to follow.
Fluke Networks provided me an OptiView XG (with all options) for one month of use. The first week I familiarized myself with the tablet and looked at our network and WLAN before taking it out to customer sites.
We focused on two campus (K-8) sites that are similar.
Campus 1 (K-8)--We used the network assessment to map and detect issues. We knew there were issues when we first engaged the customer. Finding those issues was a matter of minutes.
As we reviewed the reports we discovered a workstation NIC stuck in what appeared to be "loopback." We uncovered active NETBUI protocol and IPX then disabled them on the reported workstations and printers. In the backbone network at two separate buildings there was high packet loss, and the report made it easy to isolate the LAN switch names and then drill down to their IP and MAC addresses.
Next we noted the inventory and found that the customer had 4 generations of LAN switches between two manufacturers, and more than half of the switches were factory out-of-date and support.
After installing an access point (802.11n), we used the AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer tools to evaluate the rest of the building for AP placement. Next we used the onboard packet trace to have a look at the traffic and found numerous retail unmanaged APs/Routers. Then we proceeded with load testing the LAN and found, again, high packet loss from two defective switches.
A really cool tool within the AirMagnet suite is the ability to detect access points using an audible and visual tool. Then, the spectrum analyzer removes any question or doubt about signal strength, packet loss or placement of APs.
The key point we stressed with this customer is the lack of continuity on their site within their LAN infrastructure. Sniffing packets and trying to run down the numerous issues would normally require hours of time, not minutes. Fluke Networks has touted in the past that time is money and challenged, "What is your Mean-Time-To-Know?"
Years ago we used a tool made by 3Com--Transcend Network Discovery. Transcend even had some monitoring capabilities, but nothing like the OptiView. The cool thing about the OptiView tablet is it can remain onsite and remotely accessible. Troubles don't always surface while you're onsite, and as traffic loads change throughout the day, this is when you really need to peg the source of issues. With the OptiView, this is easily accomplished. We drilled down in every instance to the IP and MAC address of the source problem. It took seconds and was painless and we could do it from anywhere without being onsite.
The other affirmation is that after a network undergoes changes, re-testing removes unnecessary risk. In past interviews with Fluke Networks I've theorized on this methodology--testing each change or layer of changes and not leaving anything to chance.
Campus 2 (K-8)--With a recent infrastructure buildout using a 1-Gbps fiber backbone network and 802.11n WLAN, we wanted to load-test this network. A beta firewall (Under NDA) with multiple 10-Gbps ports was in place too. The voice solution is under NDA and it too is in Beta (since last summer). All workstations and devices were online, including the 40 workstations in the school computer lab.
This site has aggregation, two active VLANs and enabled in the LAN is "Layer 3 Lite," an Adtran feature in the switches with the capability to cache routes and hosts into the switch fabric to perform hardware routing. This feature also allows them to support more than one virtual local area network (VLAN) IP interface for management. As new routes are added to the switch, it forwards these routes into a hardware table. Similarly, as new hosts are added to the ARP and MAC tables, it pushes these hosts into a hardware host-forwarding table. Any traffic with hosts or routes in these tables is routed via hardware at line speed.
We ran the maximum load test on the network for 30 minutes and monitored the traffic using the beta firewall management port to verify that the network was loaded. There were no errors logged and packets were observed at Layer 3.
Next, we used AirMagnet and relocated four Access Points. Two were moved less than 7 feet while the other two were moved less than 20 feet. These moves were easily accomplished and netted improved coverage in each of the affected areas.
While we found zero issues, we confirmed that all the work paid off and our interest is in showing other campuses that this site is a proven model site. This particular campus is still under "work," meaning: we are extending fiber to other buildings, adding more WiFi, LAN infrastructure and network security cameras. We anticipate that access control and HVAC will also reside on the campus network.
Other sites were tested and we found the same consistent results and ease of use with the OptiView XG. As configured, the OptiView XG tablet is sold on the street for about $38,500 and I can say firsthand that it's akin to a Hummer running on your network.