(OK, so it’s a Performance and Security overlay…)
I was an AirMagnet fan long before Fluke Networks bought them. I’m sure that I’m not alone in appreciating the long line of excellent tools that have come from AirMagnet, from the software-based utilities to the likes of AirCheck. But for some reason I was also a bit surprised to get wind of Air Magnet Enterprise as a big old’ overlay- think AirTight for security, and 7Signal for performance.
First Impressions, Having Never Tried It
For me, Enterprise is just different from all of the AirMagnet tools that you can hold in your hand. It gives me a bit of discomfort, because there’s yet another server or two to upkeep as part of the solution. There are sensors to deploy that have to be kept up in parallel with installed APs. There’s yet another system to learn, while you learn to ignore those same functions that are part of the system you probably already own… These mushy feelings of concern have nothing to do with Air Magnet, but rather they come from having well over a decade of running and managing many small and very large WLANs and suffering pain, a la:
- Managing a WLAN is a lot of work, managing the boxes that manage the WLAN can suck
- When you make a significant investment in the likes of CleanAir (or anybody’s native equivalent) it’s hard to get a clear read on what yet one more system will do for you as a delta, and how that delta is worth the usually steep accompanying price
- Dashboards full of rogues and interference sources that you often can’t do anything about (thousands of ’em sometimes) because you are located in an urban setting become visual noise that get ignored
- Auto-containment sounds nice- until you lay waste to a network switch or an important client after putting faith in a tool that promises not to do the bad thing that it just did
- Trying to figure out how your WLAN security posture might be so deficient with your own vendor’s native capabilities (that you spent big, big coin on) that you still need an expensive overlay is a miserable task
But I realize that these are MY issues. Again, no reflection on AirMagnet (or 7Signal, or AirTight).
What immediately looks nice with Air Magnet Enterprise:
- Can be set set up in VM
- Uses a mix of pretty sweet looking hardware sensors and software agents
- Transactional stuff feels like it might be 7Signal-esque
- Hardware sensors can do wireless backhaul where wiring is difficult/cost prohibitive (yes!!)
- Full-time security scanning versus APs that only do that as a small percentage of their operational time
- Scales well for large environments
- It’s Air Magnet- which implies maturity of feature set and good design (to me, at least)
It’s hard to say much more about it without trying a tool like this. And if you’re busy or don’t feel obvious performance or security pain, it’s hard to make the time or case for something as involved as an Enterprise trial done right. At the same time, WLAN is the preferred mode of access for a growing number of complicated environments with PCI/HIPPA/etc. concerns that are also likely BYOD hornets’ nests that might be distributed over a number of sites that aren’t easily covered by limited IT staff- and so I can picture a client base (but it’s likely to be a small fraction of the number of WLAN environments that have bought other AirMagnet products).
Personally, I’d love to see a major WLAN vendor or two completely scrap their own performance/security suites and partner with specialists like Air Magnet or 7 Signal for that side of the total solution.