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Wireless Roaming Analysis – Not A Walk In The Park (by Jay Botelho)

Wildpackets_logoVendor Profile - Since 1990, WildPackets has been developing network and application analysis solutions that enable organizations of all sizes to analyze, troubleshoot, optimize, and secure their wired and wireless networks. WildPackets products are sold in over 60 countries through a broad network of channel and strategic partners. WildPackets has amassed more than 6,000 customers and its products are sold in over 60 countries in all industrial sectors. Customers include Safeway, Boeing, Siemens, AT&T, Motorola and over 80% of the Fortune 1000. Strategic partners include Aruba, Atheros, Cisco, Avaya, Intel and Telchemy.

Jay Botelho is the Director of Product Management for WildPackets.



Wireless networking is no longer a technology, it’s a platform. From mobile data access to VoFi (voice over WiFi), the wireless network is being required to provide multiple services, with unique and often divergent demands. The one common denominator in these services is mobility. Access points are stationary - users are not. Users roam from one AP to another, with the expectation that services will continue seamlessly. But what happens when they don’t?

Wireless roaming analysis is a tricky task. If the wireless deployment is well designed, users are roaming not only from one AP to another but from one channel to another, with absolutely no indication given to the user. This can even happen when the user is stationary – a busy AP knocks the user off so the wireless client associates with another AP on another channel. The only clue the user receives is when sensitive applications, like VPN access or Microsoft Outlook, suddenly disconnect from the network. The user calls the helpdesk, and you must take that “walk in the park” to try to figure out what went wrong.


Multi-Channel Analysis

Traditional wireless network analysis solutions won’t help in this situation as they scan from channel to channel, leaving large gaps in the data. For example, if the three non-overlapping channels in the b/g range, channels 1, 6 and 11 are being used, a typical scanning solution misses 66% of the data as it scans from channel to channel. Odds are very high that the packets you need to analyze the dropped network event haven’t even been captured. To adequately analyze the error condition, you need a network analysis solution that can capture all the data on all channels of interest, simultaneously, and to analyze the data in aggregate. In other words, multi-channel analysis. This is the real world – all of the data from all of the channels captured and analyzed in real-time, and using simple, inexpensive wireless USB adapters that are available at any electronics outlet. Simply use one USB adapter per channel of interest and analyze your entire network simultaneously, including roaming events.

Roaming Analysis

Roaming is one of the primary reasons why users experience problems on wireless networks. Excessive roaming times lead to poor quality for VoFi, and can lead to dropped calls or dropped data connections. Multi-channel analysis alone is not enough to perform root-cause analysis in roaming events. Roaming analysis also requires real-time aggregation of data from multiple channels and multiple APs with integrated analysis that leads to a simple report – who is roaming, how long is each event taking and what does the average look like for each AP. The end result is simple, yet the process is complex. Your network analysis solution should automate the entire task, providing a simple report with all the data you need. Ditch that pad, paper and stopwatch and look for network analysis solutions that automate wireless roaming analysis.

WildPackets OmniPeek Total Wireless Analysis™

WildPackets’ OmniPeek Total Wireless Analysis is the only solution available today that monitors and analyzes “real world” wireless networks – multiple APs and multiple channels - and simplifies the display and analysis of the information you need to address user issues quickly, efficiently and in some cases, before the user even knows they’re having a problem! All that’s needed is OmniPeek Professional or OmniPeek Enterprise and commonly available Ralink-based USB wireless adapters like the Linksys WUSB600N. Leveraging the extensibility of OmniPeek, the Linksys USB Wireless Adapter Aggregator can be downloaded from mypeek.wildpackets.com and the solution is complete. Now it really is just a walk in the park. Happy roaming!


Twa

Analytical display of real-time data for ALL channels in use no packets are lost.


Roaming

Roaming analysis logs all roaming events and zooms in on specific APs.



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