Cisco grabs leading spectrum analysis company

* Cognio analyzer to be further integrated into Cisco WCS

Another innovation has been gobbled up by the ever-vigilant Cisco. The networking behemoth is acquiring Cognio, a privately held company with one of the few coveted spectrum analysis tools in the wireless market.

Cognio’s flagship product, Spectrum Expert, is also available from its OEM partners AirMagnet, Fluke Networks and WildPackets under the respective companies’ own brand names. There is no plan to change those OEM partnerships, according to Cisco.

The importance of spectrum analysis, which identifies and locates sources of radio frequency (RF) interference, grows proportionally with the increase of unlicensed wireless network usage. Enterprises are relying more on Wi-Fi as a mainstream access method, while other wireless devices (some Wi-Fi, others not) are also being deployed in the same spectrum. The emissions from the various devices can easily bump into each other.

The Cognio system discovers these devices using a two-phase process: fingerprint analysis and DNA analysis. The first examines pulses of energy to identify its attributes: where the bursts are located in the spectrum band, their time duration, the bandwidth they are consuming, and their center frequency. Then, DNA analysis distinguishes between the different types of transmission devices (Wi-Fi access point, Bluetooth headset, microwave oven, cordless phone and so forth).

From there, the enterprise can eliminate the interference and set policies to deal with the intrusions. For example, an enterprise could set a policy that cordless headsets and handsets are not allowed. Interfering devices that are mission critical — such as Bluetooth-enabled bar-code scanners — can be powered down to alleviate interference.

Cisco and Cognio have been partners for about a year already. The Cisco field has sold Cognio’s analyzer off the Cisco price list. In addition, there is a basic level of integration between the Cognio analyzer and Cisco’s RF management system (the Wireless Control System), whereby the Cognio system has sent text-based alerts to the WCS.

However, Chris Kozup, Cisco senior manager, mobility solutions, said WCS Software Version 4.2 will be available next month. That integration will be expanded to “provide extensive graphical displays showing the split of interference in a given area among different sources” of interference, he says.

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