Network Instruments this week will upgrade its flagship software and make available probes to help network managers monitor traffic, analyze packets and troubleshoot performance issues on a variety of Ethernet and wireless nets.To start, the company will unveil Observer 10, software that supports the company's line of distributed hardware and software probes. The latest version of Observer adds remote real-time expert analysis, virtual LAN analysis and wireless security and performance metrics, among other new features."We have a comprehensive list of network protocols covered, including VLANs and wireless," says company president Douglas Smith. Network Instruments competes with companies such as Network General (formerly Network Associates\u2019 Sniffer division), NetScout, Wild Packets and Fluke Networks. Smith say he believes products from Sniffer Technologies offer the most direct competition to Observer.Network Instruments will also introduce Advanced Expert Probe, software that is delivered either bundled in an appliance or on its own and works with Observer Expert software. Network Instruments\u2019 Expert line of products provides advanced analysis to pinpoint packet, traffic or performance issues. The probe is designed to analyze data captured locally on the probe and only send the identified problem to the Expert software at the centralized Observer console.Smith says the design enables customers with multiple probes to reduce the amount of traffic being sent between the probes and the management console - which could be traveling over a WAN. "People never want to tie up WAN links," he explains.The Observer products have been upgraded to perform VLAN analysis and tell network managers the top talkers and data flow sorted by VLAN. This will help network managers understand what VLANs are tapping the servers on the network and when VLANs might start to become overloaded, Smith says.The company also upped its wireless capabilities. In the past Network Instrument could report on 12 wireless conditions, but now the company added 50 more metrics, such as access point encryption disabled or enabled, open system or shared key authentication, spoofed MAC addresses, unknown stations, signal strength and quality and more.Observer costs about $1,000; Expert Observer costs less than $3,000; and the Observer Suite costs about $4,000. The new Advanced is priced at about $3,000 for the software-only version and about $4,000 for the 1U appliance. The Network Instrument Authentication Server is software-only and priced at $2,000. The WAN Rack Mount Probe (with RMON capabilities) costs about $7,000. All products are available July 26.