Fluke Competes with CognioBy CWNP On 12/14/2009 - 34 Comments
I’m a fairly self-conscious writer. There’s plenty of good writing on the web to capture our limited attention, so if you take the time to read these articles, let me start by saying we appreciate you! A primary part of my job is to know as much as possible about the industry, including new features, products, standards, and vendor solutions. In that interest, I spend a lot of time sifting through potential ideas for the blog and, hopefully, presenting valuable information here. Back to my self-consciousness… I bring that up only because I never want to sound like a broken record around here. However, I realize that I have a predilection for writing about laptop-based analysis products and free software, so here’s one more for the books that falls into the former category. I’m convinced this one is noteworthy.
Cue a product that should disturb Cisco’s (Cognio’s) high-end laptop-based spectrum analyzer sales: Fluke Networks' AirMagnet SpectrumXT. I’ve had the opportunity to do some beta testing for Fluke here in the past few months and am pleased to share about this soon-to-be-released product. I wrote several months back about AirMagnet’s Cognio-less foray into spectrum analysis with their AirMedic, which, to be fair, is a somewhat limited spectrum analyzer based on the Intel 5300 chipset. One of the main drawbacks of AirMedic is form factor… not everyone has an Intel 5300 nor a mini-PCIe interface on their laptop. Form factor also happens to be a case-in-point where Cisco’s innovation has struggled, as they’ve never expanded the Cognio product beyond the Cardbus form factor. With many new laptops providing ExpressCard or USB interfaces only, the Cognio Cardbus adapter is unnecessarily restricting. USB is quickly becoming the king of external WLAN analysis adapters. It is called a “universal” serial bus for a reason; Fluke/AirMagnet is smart to build their SpectrumXT product around the USB interface and capitalize on a broader market.
SpectrumXT is categorized as an enterprise/professional spectrum analyzer and fits nicely in a category with Cognio’s version of the same. It’s the uncalibrated type of spectrum analysis from which you can achieve reasonable accuracy, and it comes paired with a feature rich software product. By deciding not to conduct intensive RF calibration, they’re saving you from a much higher price tag. One of the significant features that makes an appearance in SpectrumXT is device classification. Most users of the product are able to manually classify some common interfering devices based on RF signatures; however, auditors and administrators alike should benefit from the automated device classification capabilities that are built into the software.
Fluke/AirMagnet has a unique advantage with this type of analysis product because they have a diverse portfolio of analysis tools. To be more clear, their products encompass the whole family of laptop-based analysis. This is important because with multiple adapters of differing types, they can aggregate data gathered from different sources—and at different OSI layers—and present a more all-encompassing picture of the network environment. This type of aggregated intelligence should be expanded with future revisions of the product.
I didn’t think to ask AirMagnet what chipset they’re using for SpectrumXT—I’m not sure they would’ve told me—but I recently heard about a spectrum analysis chipset developed by a company with whom AirMagnet already has a partnership. I’ll try to find out more and post a comment if I get some veritable details.
We should expect the price to be somewhere in the competitive neighborhood of the Cognio package (with its various OEMs), but it’s quite possible that Fluke is going to shake things up and take aim at Cisco with a more aggressive price. Some info was still under wraps until today, but I wanted to post what I know so as to let the cat out of the bag, so to speak. They’re set to release more product information today, which you can gather here:
While I cling to my unfettered vendor-neutrality, AirMagnet holds a special place in my heart for continuing to innovate with laptop-based analysis tools. I’m eager to see how/if this inspires Cognio.