Network General has expanded its popular Sniffer device to cover other tasks currently done by rivals.

Sniffer Infinistream 2.5 now has ATM WAN support, allowing it to capture line-rate Gigabit flows to up to 4TB. Sniffer Enterprise Visualizer 4.0 has improved network and application performance reporting and fault finding.

Sniffer MultiSegment Intelligence 4.0 tracks application flows across multiple networks and correlates front-end to back-end transactions to locate the source of a problem. And Sniffer Enterprise Administrator 4.0 configures Sniffer agents, allows them to be managed and updated remotely, and adds access control and tracking for sensitive data.

Network General president Michael Pope said of the expanded capabilities: "We could do packet capture and deep analysis, but we realised that the data also held valuable business information." Sniffer is still a huge brand, said Pope. "There's over 250,000 copies out there, and we estimate that most of those customers are current users."

He noted though that Sniffer lost out when it was bought by McAfee in 1997 for $1.3 billion and merged into Network Associates. It regained its independence last year when McAfee sold it to a group of investors for just $275 million.

Pope added that the work to fix Sniffer's weaknesses and create the Sniffer Enterprise Platform was part of a huge catch-up project which saw the company spend $30 million on R&D in the last 12 months alone. "We didn't invest effectively in R&D for seven years, so we said we'd pour money in," he said.

Pricing for the new software won't be announced until it becomes available next month. But Pope did point to a low-cost, high-volume model. "We say it's dumb not to change our price," he said. "Sniffer Portable listed for $10,000. We have brought out more decodes and brought the price to $4,500 and this past quarter we tripled our volumes on it."

In the meantime, two main rivals to Network General have also announced updated products. NetScout's nGenius will now support Cisco NetFlow v9, and claims to be unworried by the new Sniffer strategy.

"We already have a unified performance management solution that's an all-in-one package," said marketing manager Eileen Haggerty. "Ours is a little different from their baseline." She added that it's vital to deploy application performance monitoring on the WAN, as "that's where it's most vulnerable."

And Network Instruments announced version 11 of its Observer network analysis software, which has gained extra diagnostic capabilities for VoIP and support for multi-hop analysis. It is also available as a native Windows 64-bit application, which the company claimed can give eight times faster analysis performance.