Tag Archives: Tools

NetAlly Unleashes the Right Tester, at the Right Time: EtherScope nXG

 Change is both inevitible, and fickle. Vendors come, go, and buy each other. Some product lines that we love die on the vine, others thankfully go on to only get better with time. I sat in a room with the NetAlly folks at Mobility Field Day 4 and got an eyefull/earfull of teaser information on a slick new tester that would be released later in the year that would bear these notions out in spades.

I’m here to tell you- “later” is now, and the product line that we have grown to appreciate from its start at Fluke Networks, through it’s run as part of NETSCOUT, and now as the baby of spin-off NetAlly continues its tradition of excellence with the new Etherscope nXG.

Does this look vaguely familiar?
EtherScopenXG

If you own (or have Jonesed for) either the AirCheck G2 or the Link Runner G2, that color scheme will look familiar. But the EtherScope nXG’s overall feature set makes the very-capable G2 units suddenly feel a litlle less-than, despite each being a testing powerhouse in its own right. (And if you’ve been around a while, you might remember the old yellow EtherScope from the Fluke Networks

NetAlly brings the EtherScope to market right when it is needed. What do I mean by that?

  • With the 802.11ax tide starting to rise, troubleshooting tools need to keep up
  • On the wired side, NBASE-T and 10G are becoming facts of life
  • Bluetooth is penetrating the enterprise in interesting new ways
  • “Convergence” is one of those overplayed words in networking, but the reality is that both operations and support of those operations has very much seen a convergence and fewer of us do one or the other (not to mention work in data centers and server rooms)
  • Senior engineers can’t be everywhere, and it’s not uncommon to rely on others to gather data that we then analyze from some other location
  • Performance testing and detailed path analysis of different network segments can be daunting as topologies get more sophisticated.
  • Uploading of results to a cloud repository brings huge advantages in baselining, team-wide scrutiny, and reporting.

Networks are getting more complicated. Tolerance for time-to-problem-resolution is decreasing. The EtherScope nXG is marketed as a “Portable Network Expert”, and despite my frequent disdain for grandiose marketing plattitudes, I find this to be an apt description.

Rather than regurgitate the tester’s specs, let me point you to them here (scroll down).  The full data sheet from the product docs is here and shows the product’s impressive range nicely. And to get a feel for just what the EtherScope nXG can do, have a look at these videos that show several different testing scenarios.

I’m going to cap this one here. There is just sooooo much to talk about with this new tester. Yes, I know I sound borderline giddy and buzzed on the Kool-Aid- and I’m OK with that. I can tell you that the new tester feels good in the hand, and casual kicking of the tires is in itself impressive. I have an eval unit, and will be putting it through it’s paces for real in the near future. Watch for the next blog on the EtherScope nXG.

 

 

Wyebot Adds Feautures, Ups It’s WLAN Performance Monitoring Game

I wrote about Wyebot a few months back for IT Toolbox. It’s an interesting wireless network performance monitoring platform, and is among the more impressive tools of this type that I’ve looked at (think Cape sensors, 7signal, Netbeez, etc). Why does Wyebot appeal to me?

Wyebot16

For starters, the user interface hooks me. I know that this is one of those highly subjective things that hits us all differently, but I find the Wyebot dashboard easy to navigate, with a lot of value at each drill-in point. If you look at the IT Toolbox article referenced above, you’ll get a good introduction to the product, and here’s a nice summary of why the company feels that their multi-radio sensor is advantageous. That’s all well and good, but the point of THIS blog is that Wyebot has added new features in their version 2.2 code, and is listening to their customers and avaluators like me as they evolve the product.

Quick side note: I brought up with Wyebot that it would be nice to see “What’s New” release-notes/features listed somewhere in the dashboard, and as it is you have to click in fairly deep to tell what version is running, like so:
Wyebot17

If you miss the email that tells what features have been added, it’s hard to find that information anywhere else. That does a disservice to a decent product that is getting better with every update, so hopefully we see a change here in the near future.

But back to the 2.2 release. The bulleted list goes like this:

  • Network Test Graphs
  • Historical problems/solutions
  • Support for iPerf version 3
  • Enhanced Network Test result details
  • Enhanced ability to discover AP names
  • Auto-creation of Network Tests

And the details can be seen here in the release notes,Wyebot v2.2 Release Notes (July 2019).

Given that different environments have varying areas of concern, each of us will find different weights to the value of the individual feautures as Wyebot continues to mature. From Day 1, I’ve been impressed with the sensors’ ability to quickly characterize a Wi-Fi environment and monitor it for changes. I appreciate that the sensor can use wireless backhaul, and that it can serve as an iPerf server (versions 2 and 3), as well as performing as a wireless client even on 802.1X networks for testing authentication and such.

Perhaps my fovorite capability to date is being able to upload a pcap file to Wyebot and have it display what the capture means through the lens of the Wyebot interface.

There is a lot to like, and more coming with each release. If you’ve not looked at Wyebot yet, I think you’ll find that this start-up is holding it’s own among established competitors when it come to WLAN performance monitoring.

Another Example of How Important Wire is to Wireless

A house built on a shaky foundation cannot endure. And a WLAN built on a shaky wiring foundation likewise cannot endure, I tellya. My friends, is your foundation shaky? Is it? CHECK YOUR FOUNDATION NOW. (I happen to sell foundation-strengthening herbal supplements on the side, if you need that sort of thing…)

I’ve long been a proponent of recognizing installed UTP as a vital component in the networking ecosystem. Too many people take Layer 1 for granted, and forgivable sins of of our 10 Mbps and Fast Ethernet pasts won’t fly in a Gig world. Toolmakers like Fluke Networks sell cable certification testers that take the guesswork out of whether a given cable run can be relied on to perform as expected. Don’t use one of these testers at time of cable installation, and you are only assuming you have a good station cable.

I just had an interesting situation come up that I helped a very skilled field tech with. He was working in several different small buildings, each serviced by a Cisco Catalyst Switch and a handful of 3802 802.11ac access points. The switches and cable had been in place for years, and the APs for many months, all with no issues whatsoever.

Then, we changed out the old 3560X switches for shiny new 3650s (curse you Cisco for your bizarre fascination with part numbers so close together), and suddenly some APs weren’t working any more. Between us, we checked all switch settings, POST reports, CDP tables, logs, etc- everything you can dream up on the switch. We put the APs that weren’t working back on the old switches, and they came right up. Hmmm… thoughts turned to PoE/code bugs, but then I went a-Googlin’ before consulting TAC.

I found this document that put me on the path to righteousness. Though we weren’t having “PoE Imax Errors”, a couple of nuggets jumped out at me about our new switches.

PoE Imax

Holy guacamole- We got us a situation! But wait… THERE’S MORE!

PoE Imax2

Shazam! Which, of course, translates in Esperanto to “maybe your cable is actually kind of iffy, and all the CDP stuff that happens at the milliwatt level before PoE gets delivered worked OK with your old switch but not with the new one that has the enhanced PoE controller”.

If you don’t know that the newer switch does PoE differently, you might wrongly assume that your cabling is “good” because the APs worked on it when those APs used the old switches connected to that wiring. By now, you can probably guess where I’m headed…

Our tech tested the cabling on the new-switch-problem APs and in each case found that they needed help to work with the new switch. He re-terminated and tested each, with the APs then coming up with no issues. I have no doubt that this cable was certified 10-12 years ago, but in that time a lot can happen to either end of those cables depending on the environments where they are used.

Live and learn!

 

 

A Little Quiet Please- The Jabra Evolve 75

Jabra 75 EvolveFew things are more annoying when you’re troubleshooting in a noisy environment while trying to work with technical support or a coworker over the phone and you can’t hear them (or they can’t hear you). There’s usually enough stress in play to begin with, and having to repeat yourself and say “what? I just can’t hear you…” over the exhaust fans of network equipment in packed racks only makes it worse. Enter the Jabra Evolve 75.

Quiet Down!

Marketed as “the best wireless headset for concentration in the open office”, the Evolve 75 from Jabra is impressive for a number of reasons.

I don’t work in an open office environment so I can’t validate Jabra’s claim in that regard, but I can tell you that the Evolve 75 impresses in the noisy data center and telecommunications closets frequented by network technicians and administrators. I recently took an evaluation unit for a spin, and the timing was perfect for a real-world test under extremely loud background noise conditions. Not only could I hear the support engineer on the other end perfectly, but he also said my audio was clear despite the Evolve 75 mic being  inches away from blowing server fans. It’s hard to ask for more than that, but there is more to talk about.

Classy

Jabra has always made fairly elegant Bluetooth headsets for cellphones, in my experience. This was my first outing with a professional grade Jabra product, and it blew the doors off of other headsets I’ve tried to use in similarly noisy situations. The Evolve 75 is fairly light, but substantive. It feels good on my big head, and the mic raises and lowers smoothly, and in both positions is unobtrusive. The overall look and feel whether it’s on your head or in it’s beefy charging cradle is one of quality.

Functional

I’m finding that the Evolve 75 has really, really good battery life for my usage patterns- but I also do not wear it as long as a call-center person or the like might. The ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) functionality works like a dream, and these may be the absolute quietest phones I’ve ever used. I manipulated the volume buttons and mute functions on WebEx, Skype, and simple phone call without having to fumble around, and it doesn’t take long to feel at a disadvantage when you take a call without the benefit of this headset.

I also made use of the unit’s ability to pair with two Bluetooth devices at once, which proves handy more often than you might think. When paired simultaneously to my computer and my smartphone, the new-found mobility and seamless transitioning between the two was just a joy to experience. I’m not one to gush, but I kinda fell in love the Evolve 75 and don’t mind saying so.

Nice Bonuses

I’m not sure that I qualify as an audiophile after all the beating my ears took working around loud fighter jets in my Air Force days, but I do enjoy music and the occasional podcast. Jabra makes both activities more enjoyable with the sound quality, volume, and purity that the Evolve 75 delivers. It also comes with a really nice travel case.

The only downside I see with the Evolve 75 is that it’s one of those really, really nice tools  that you miss greatly when you don’t have it.