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Nomadic tester makes short work of statistical analysis on Ethernet networks

Posted: 30 Nov 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:agilent technologies? metro ethernet? n2620a? framescope pro? performance analyzer?

Kudos to Agilent Technologies for making life easier as metro Ethernet technology gets faster and more elaborate. The company's new N2620A FrameScope Pro nomadic performance analyzer, with its traffic generator functions, removable Li-ion rechargeable battery pack, and good-sized color LCD touchscreen (2.4-by-6.25-inches), lets you readily run pre-defined performance test suites.

As such, this reasonably priced 2.5-lb. unit should go a long way in the hands of technicians and even semi-skilled deployment personnel. At just over $8,000 each, many organizations will likely wind up buying a number of these nifty portables.

Also, note that this latest instrument family follows on the heels of Agilent's existing WireScope 350 N2600A Category 6 cable tester, and its FrameScope 350 N2610A for 10/100 Ethernet test of Cat 6 systems and cabling.

Fast and slow
Usable in target networks running as slow as 1Mbps to as fast as a Gbps, the new N2620A FrameScope Pro uses what Agilent calls Autotest. Mentioned in the press release, AutoTest can help you measure the performance of networks using the same operations that an end user would execute.

The tester then presents detail on each operation and compares measured performance against the pre-defined metrics. Optical and RJ-45 connectors attach to the network being scrutinized. The press statement also briefly touches on the unit's automatic network discovery. In use, one of these handhelds can actually discover literally thousands of network devices. Once that's done, the system builds a test suite so that you can verify performance and accessibility of network resources. That happens literally in seconds flat.

Beyond that, the N2620A tester lets you compare your findings to custom performance metrics, too, and you can store network databases. There's also a Wiremap Test and adapter option (the N2614A-001) that lets you locate mis-wires.

Future enhancements
Speaking of customization and modifications, the FrameScope Pro's compute engine and embedded operating system also supports enhancements. The instrument includes a 32bit Card Bus slot for PCMCIA card expansion, and a 32MB CompactFlash memory card is included. The N2620A also packs a USB 1.1 (Universal Serial Bus) port, and a TalkSet interface. The latter lets you establish a link over unused fibers.

The press statement mentions that the handheld supports 802.3z-compliant 10/100/1000BASE-T copper as well as 1000BASE-SX/LX/ZX fiber SFP interfaces. Note, however, that the SFP transceiver is an option.

That, plus the fact that you can buy a FrameScope Pro version that suits your needs, makes these units cost effective. You can order a N2620A-001 version for Ethernet, for example, or a N2620A-050 multi-mode SFP version for 1000BASE-SX operation at the 850nm optical wavelength. Similarly, there's a N2620A-051 spin SFP transceiver for lower wavelength systems (1,200nm through 1,600nm).

Automatic surveys
In use, the FrameScope Pro automatically surveys the network and displays all devices, giving you visibility into IP and IPX devices on different subnets, along with their MAC addresses, network addresses, and names. The little FrameScope Pro lets you identify Ethernet utilization, broadcasts, collisions, and errors, pinpointing things such as incorrectly assigned subnet masks, mis-configured servers, or duplicate IP addresses.

In addition to measuring the network resources mentioned in Agilent's press statement (DHCP, DNS, file servers, e-mail servers, and Web servers), the FrameScope Pro can handle test on WNS, Novell, and FTP (file transfer protocol) servers, as well as primary and secondary DC servers, routers, and switches. You can also dish up Ping, Trace Route, and SNMP Query packets. VLAN tags and priority fields are also programmable, and QoS (quality of service) TOS and DSCP settings are also configurable.

- Alex Mendelsohn

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