Net Associates ships Sniffer for high-speed nets

Network Associates Inc. last week started shipping the Sniffer Pro 98 analysis suite and the optional Gigabit Sniffer Pro to assist network managers trouble-shooting applications and network devices, even on high-speed networks.

Announced in June, Sniffer Pro 98 and Gigabit Sniffer Pro are part of Network Associates' strategy to analyze traffic on any local- or wide-area network. It supports Integrated Services Digital Network, T-1, Ethernet and Token Ring as well as high-speed Fiber Distributed Data Interface, Gigabit Ethernet and Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) technologies.

The Sniffer Pro 98 analysis suite combines once-separate network testing programs for LANs, WANs and high-speed networks into a single package, sporting a new Windows graphical user interface as well.

The GUI, common for all networks, reduces the time and cost of training and the management of multiple applications for network monitoring, said Theresa Law, senior product manager for Network Associates, Santa Clara, Calif.

Optimized for Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows NT environments, the Sniffer Pro 98 analysis suite is compatible with most Pentium notebook PCs and is priced from $5,100 for the basic software.

The Gigabit Sniffer Pro is priced at $10,000 for the software and $28,450 for the associated hardware and other network devices required for high-speed network testing.

Analysts said analysis tools for high-speed networks are needed, even if customers have not fully implemented ATM or Gigabit Ethernet technologies on their LANs.

"Each of the major network testing suppliers is trying to be more proactive in providing solutions, tips and techniques to trouble-shoot network performance problems," said Stephen Nawolski, an analyst for The Tolly Group, a consulting firm in Manasquan, N.J.

The enhancements bring the well-known Sniffer family into line with Network Associates' corporate vision, analysts said. Network Associates is the result of the merger last year of McAfee Associates Inc., a software company, and Network General, which originally owned the Sniffer product line and a variety of network analysis hardware and software.

"While Network General would have sold users a notebook computer system, Network Associates will sell the Sniffer software on its own because its identity is tied to providing value through the software, not the hardware," said Elizabeth Rainge, senior analyst for International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass.

That does not mean Network Associates will not continue to provide custom hardware optimized for use with Sniffer tools— especially for high-speed networks.

"While some customers will be able to buy off-the-shelf network adapters that enable them to use Sniffer on low-speed LANs and WANs, at higher speeds they won't be able to get the visibility and capture rates they need without a customized system," Law said.

Federal users, in particular, she added, are looking forward to the ability to view network performance down to the bit level "because it greatly increases the visibility of network traffic and enables them to more easily justify the move to higher-speed networks."

Ultimately, Law said, Network Associates' goal in enhancing the Sniffer Pro line is to be more flexible. "Users know what tools they need. We are trying to provide them [with] a single product that they can customize to meet their needs."

Network Associates sees the federal government as a vast market opportunity for its network testing equipment and software. Federal sales make up about 15 percent of its $650 million in annual revenue. "We view the federal market as a huge audience for our network testing and analysis products," she said.

Network Associates offers its well-known Sniffer line through a dedicated direct-sales force, resellers and the General Services Administration schedule.

The Sniffer network testing product line was created in 1986 by a pair of engineers at a computer company who were struggling to find a way to test the performance of an operating system on a LAN. The tool they developed was so good that they quit their jobs and founded Network General.

-- DePompa Reimers is a free-lance writer based in Germantown, Md. She can be reached at bdepompa@aol.com.

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