Fluke claims that its latest LinkRunner Pro is the first handheld tool for front-line technicians that combines the ability to trouble-shoot Gigabit Ethernet, 802.1X security and Power over Ethernet (PoE), and provide link status test reports.
The device is a successor to Fluke's popular LinkRunner 'network multimeter', and sells for around $1,000 (£500). Like its predecessor, the LinkRunner Pro can identify and verify cabling, using tests such as digital toning to see which cables go where at patch panels, checks for cable length, faulty wiring and short-circuits, and so on.
It can also ping up to 10 other devices or URLs, and it can use Cisco, Extreme and IEEE link layer discovery protocols to identify the nearest switch, slot and port.
Where it scores over the earlier model, according to Fluke, is the addition of tests for 802.1X and PoE. For example, it can verify that power is available at the right voltage and on the right cable pairs, according to the 803.3af spec, and it can authenticate to an EAP-secured network, using user name, certificates and password.
"It is a completely new model – the LinkRunner could only detect Gigabit, not connect to it, because it didn't have the power, so we had to build a new platform," said Barry Lindsley, Fluke's marketing manager. He added that Gigabit capability is especially important now that much LAN gear is Gigabit-capable by default.
Lindsley said he expects the growing use of 802.1X security on wired networks – it is already becoming standard on wireless LANs – to result in more user authentication problems, and therefore bring a greater need for technical support at the desktop.
"I see three scenarios there," he said. "The first is someone can't get in because their laptop is not set up correctly, the second is someone has fiddled with the network settings, so you need to be able to verify if it's a PC or a network problem. The third is the access layer, where the person coming in can only get to certain areas of the network. You can't trouble-shoot that without 1X capability."
LinkRunner Pro's ability to generate objective connectivity reports, which can be uploaded to a PC, should also help here, said Fluke user Craig Bartholomew, a network engineer with US mortgage provider Fannie Mae.
"Our environment is complex. The network often gets falsely blamed for lack of connectivity," he said. "LinkRunner Pro's reporting capabilities will help us provide proof as to the real cause of basic connectivity problems."