AirMagnet’s 802.11ac Treatment

During the first session of Wireless Field Day 5, Fluke Networks announced a slew of upgrades to the AirMagnet Survey software package. They geared the updates towards the coming torrent of 802.11ac devices and are touting the ability to measure real world experience from an end user’s view point.

They started off with a quick intro but wasted no time diving into the problems we face now and stand to face in the near future with the 802.11ac push that’s bearing down on us. To solve these issues Fluke’s AirMagnet team has made some key updates to their site survey software. The newest release will fully support 802.11ac. In order to add this capability they’ve updated and applied their lifecycle approach to wireless network planning, preparation, deployment, and optimization/troubleshooting.

One of the largest concerns with the coming changes is the media and marketing around 802.11ac. The promises of blazing fast networks with speeds exceeding 1Gbps and cell size increases are driving consumers (and in turn, executives) to buy in without a real understanding. With 80 and even 160MHz channels on their way, proper planning is that much more crucial. The predictability of wireless networks is likely going to be noticably impacted due to varied environments, channel mis-allocations, coverage over performance deployments, improper cell sizing, and in the distant future wired network capacity could become a real issue. To ease the transition, whether it’s a slow transition, a forklift replacement, or waiting for a normal refresh cycle, Fluke’s new features take into account these new challenges and give you the information needed to move forward.

In order to allow for deployment and validation support for USB and PCIe adapters are included out of the box, with Broadcom being called out by name. Not only the most common will be supported, but also the highest performing to be able to simulate and reference/realize full capabilities of your network. To pull this off AirMagnet will have the ability to do predictive calculations based on contributing factors that may be unique to your environment (channels, width, MCS, interference, signal), validation of user throughput based on physical layer and bi-directional iperf testing, performance metrics and requirements matching, and generally removing the uncertainty of how a client will perform once you leave the site.

Personally I have no experience with AirMagnet other than watching videos and looking over the shoulders of other people. I’ve had to avoid it for myself because of a few reasons; the biggest two being cost and rumors of stability issues. Being a fan and user/owner of the Fluke hardware (OneTouch, AirCheck, LinkRunner, et al.) I’m fairly confident it’s not an unstable package, but for the price I’m not willing to risk running it unsuccessfully. I can’t speak for the updates or any changes that they’ve made so you’ll have to take the word of Fluke or the other delegate (I doubt the other delegates would steer you in the wrong direction). Check out the videos below and see for yourself.