As network traffic continues to increase, it is even more important to have a tool that helps network engineers pinpoint where issues are occurring on their network, in both real time and post capture, for deeper network analysis. For this reason, WildPackets created Compass Live, a real-time interactive dashboard for analyzing wired and wireless networks. Compass Live has a series of interactive graphs that provide visualization into everything from overall utilization of the network to top protocols and nodes with both .pkt (from WildPackets) and .pcp (from Wireshark) trace files.
We launched a Beta version of our project during the summer, and received a lot of great user feedback. Below are a few of the key features that beta users found of particular interest.
Wireless Signal Strength
For wireless networks, Compass Live offers a unique signal strength graph. To do this, simply change the graph to “Signal” and you will see the average signal strength of your network over time. Like all the graphs provided in this dashboard, you have the ability to dissect signal strength, and view it from a protocol or particular node viewpoint, making it easy to troubleshoot signal strength problems for specific users or access points.
A very useful application of the wireless signal strength feature is for analyzing wireless roaming. Let’s assume we’re using the aggregation feature within Compass and simultaneously monitoring channels 1, 6, and 11 in the b/g range, these being the active channels in our WLAN. Since we can track the signal strength of a specific node, we can easily determine if a user is mobile and if so, when they roam, or move from one AP in our infrastructure to another. If the signal strength is changing in a specific direction (either increasing or decreasing), that node is most probably mobile. And if the signal strength is going down, at some point we should see the signal strength spike back up, indicating that the node has roamed to another AP on a different channel. This provides an entire history of the “roam,” letting us know how much the signal strength degraded before the wireless client decided it was time to roam and how long it took data to begin flowing again once the user was associated with the new AP. This information is critical is assessing the overall health of your network for handling time-sensitive applications, like voice over Wi-Fi (VoFi).
For the more detail-oriented protocol analysts, the transmit/receive option on Compass Live is highly appealing. With a single click, you can change the view to show the network traffic going in and out of your total network, or out of individual nodes or groups of nodes. Understanding this characteristic is critical when performing baseline assessments of your network.
This is the first version of Compass Live and we have more features that will be introduced in the coming year. To learn more about our other capabilities, check out this free webinar. If you’d like to try Compass Live for yourself, please join our Beta program.
Author Bio: Chris Bloom, aka SpacePacket, is a senior software engineer. Chris has worked at WildPackets for 15 years where he manages the custom engineering team, writes code, teaches an SDK class, and provides content for the website. Chris’s innovations include over 40 plug-ins on MyPeek, including the OmniPeek Google Map Plugin, the Compass Forensics Dashboard, the Wireless Channel Aggregator, and the Latency Monitor.