Veriwave's WaveDeploy Raises the Bar on WLAN Assessment

By Lisa Phifer

May 18, 2010

Site assessment tool maps per-client application performance for what-if analysis, client certification, and SLA validation.

With 802.11n, many companies are ready to roll out larger WLANs but worried about reliability. According to Eran Karoly, Veriwave's VP of Marketing, the top concern expressed by IT managers and systems integrators is now: How I can make sure that all these different client devices will deliver the quality-of-service required by mission-critical applications?

"We hear that client growth and constant change is causing a lot of grief. Attempts to standardize on just a few devices are failing, and customers are asking for solutions that can test all the devices they're seeing, under real world conditions," said Karoly.

Worse, 802.11n signal strength is not a reliable proxy for application performance. "Customers want to capture true end user experience, not just RF power," said Karoly. "When they find a problem, they want to know where it is and what's causing it -- for example, a new device that's disrupting service."

Necessity Is the Mother of (Re)invention

To address these concerns, Veriwave combined and revamped several test tools to create WaveDeploy. This new site assessment solution is designed to analyze network readiness, real-world performance, and the impact of growth and change by taking a single survey pass.

WaveDeploy generates profiled traffic to be sent and received by actual Wi-Fi client devices as they move throughout a site, recording metrics at marked intervals. Samples are smoothed to yield per-client maps showing how metrics (e.g., VoIP MOS scores, video MDI scores) compare to defined SLAs. Vendors familiar with Veriwave test gear will notice that WaveDeploy builds on the company's WaveQoE and WaveAgent software [see this Wi-Fi Planet news release].

"You install WaveDeploy on a laptop, put that laptop on a cart with client devices running WaveAgent, and walk your facility," explained Karoly. "Along the way, you pause and mark where you are on your floor plan to take measurements." This technique is similar to a traditional site survey, except that several clients and applications can be measured in one pass.

Maps generated by WaveDeploy reflect each client's experience, with roll-up views reflecting the worst experience for any client/application. Specific measurements can be viewed by hovering over any spot, but are also compared to SLAs to produce color-coded maps that make it easy to visualize where problems occurred and which devices or applications had trouble.

Later this year, Veriwave plans to add WaveDeploy WiFi, a small portable reincarnation of WaveTest hardware. WaveDeploy software can be paired with laptops, VoIP handsets, WinCE medical devices, etc. However, WaveDeploy WiFi expands this by simulating up to 64 profiled 11n devices. This enables "what if" measurements in cases where carting around dozens of devices would be impractical.

Moving From Site Survey to Site Assessment

WaveDeploy is not a traditional pre-deployment site survey tool. "With the high degree of instantaneous variability in propagation inherent in 802.11n, site surveys really are close to nonsense today," said analyst Craig Mathias, Principal, Farpoint Group. "[WaveDeploy] is a new class of WLAN management tool designed for Layer-7 performance assurance," he said.

Instead, Karoly refers to WaveDeploy as a life-cycle site assessment solution. Like other survey tools, WaveDeploy can take pre-deployment RF measurements. However, by generating profiled layer 7 streams and recording application-specific metrics, WaveDeploy reports results that are more readily meaningful to IT administrators and systems integrators.

Furthermore, by measuring a diverse mix of actual devices at once (not just simulated clients or a single live client), WaveDeploy can show the impact of new devices on existing clients. Result files can even be shared with vendors that use Veriwave for product testing, helping to debug problems that are not easily replicated.

Microsoft WLAN Architect Victoria Poncini has been using WaveDeploy to help her design Microsoft's next-generation corporate WLAN. Specifically, she used WaveDeploy to characterize application coverage during a just-completed 802.11n bakeoff.

"We've had trouble with individual clients and their eccentricities," said Poncini. To address this, she used WaveDeploy to measure the performance of multicast, realtime audio and video, and TCP and UDP data applications on a mix of Intel, Atheros, Broadcom, and Ralink clients.

"The ability to accurately measure individual client performance has been a huge win for the pilot," said Poncini. "We plan use WaveDeploy for both pre- and post-install surveys to verify throughput, create SLAs, and give us a good baseline for trouble-shooting."

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