Several readers tell me they face a conundrum when considering deployment of Wi-Fi scanning systems that monitor the airwaves for security vulnerabilities and performance problems. The specialty overlay systems that do a really good job at these functions are expensive, as many of you have opined, when contemplating deploying what amounts to an entirely parallel enterprise-wide wireless network dedicated to monitoring functions.

This situation could be improving. Over the past several months, a number of Wi-Fi system makers have been teaming with wireless scanning/monitoring companies to blend their products' capabilities.

For the most part, this means that one set of a single WLAN vendor's radio access points with the monitoring partner's software embedded in them can function either as an AP (transmitting and receiving packets) or as a sensor (continually monitoring the airwaves to detect and prevent potential intrusions or gather performance data). In this scenario, the AP-turned-sensor has the full system scanning capabilities supported by the specialty monitoring system vendor.

Among the blended Wi-Fi/monitoring system partners:

  • Aruba and AirMagnet (scheduled for availability in June from Aruba).
  • Trapeze and AirDefense (scheduled for availability in late May/early June from Trapeze).
  • Siemens and AirTight (available now from Siemens).
  • Xirrus and Network Chemistry (scheduled for availability May 30 from Xirrus).

These partners' integration efforts eliminate the need to separately purchase and configure two sets of radios in the network infrastructure. And, from an inventory perspective, it keeps your infrastructure radios to a single SKU (stock keeping unit).

Depending on setup, there might still be a bit of an "overlay" involved. Aruba and Trapeze APs, enhanced as sensors, must communicate the security and performance data they collect to a special data correlation engine supplied by AirMagnet and AirDefense, respectively. So you still have to buy and manage two different products and vendors.

AirTight's monitoring engine is integrated into the Siemens network management server software with a single sign-on. In the Xirrus/Network Chemistry setup, you have a choice whether to place the Network Chemistry server software on the Xirrus
Management System or use your own server. In these cases, where the correlation software is embedded in the vendor's existing Wi-Fi management system, there is only one SKU required to get the combined server/engine capabilities.