For years, enterprise IT managers have had sophisticated network management tools, like Cisco's Airespace and Fluke Network's Airmagnet, to help them configure, manage and determine the health of their networks, both wired and wireless. Aerodel Director from SoftDEL Systems (www.softdel.com) aims to bring that functionality into the wireless sensor network world in industrial process plants.
Wireless brings with it its own set of problems: primarily network management and security within a heterogeneous multi-vendor and multi-protocol environment. Wireless is difficult to manage, and the mass adoption of industrial wireless networks will be limited by the ease of deployment, configurability, maintainability, reliability and security of installations.
Aerodel Director is a hardened, rack-mountable, 1U appliance server that enables management of plant-wide wireless networks via standard network management protocols. A single server can be configured to manage multiple networks of different types, such as WirelessHART, Wireless Ethernet, 802.15.4 and other industry-leading proprietary wireless networks. It can be installed as an add-on over existing industrial wireless installations.
"Once it is deployed," says SoftDEL chief marketing officer Chirag Nanavati, "Aerodel Director monitors the network 24/7 to detect wireless devices and network activity in the plant airspace. Aerodel Director is the industry's first centralized enterprise-grade, multi-vendor, multi-protocol industrial wireless network management system."
According to Nanavati, users can graphically manage wireless networks by placing devices on a floor plan or an outdoor map on-screen. They can visualize the network topology and interconnectivity between the devices in real time. Aerodel can graphically visualize the health of devices, individual wireless links and the network as a whole, so that end users can push on with the large scale deployments they want to do.
The Aerodel Direc tor Dashboard presents all wireless network-related activity on one screen for non-stop wireless network monitoring.
Aerodel Director facilitates troubleshooting of network faults by allowing the user to narrow the problem down to failing links or overloaded intermediate nodes, and continuously assimilates and reports important network metrics and data using intuitive charts and graphs. Aerodel Director notifies users in real time via the GUI or email when security settings on wireless devices are altered, or when unauthorized wireless devices access their airspace and connect to their network.
The key features of Aerodel Director are
- A unified platform to manage multiple heterogeneous wireless networks 24/7
- An enterprise-grade, hardened appliance server with secure HTTPS- and SSH-based connectivity with a browser-based Microsoft Silverlight GUI console.
- Industry-standard network management protocols
- Location-based network management for modeling real-world situations
- One consolidated dashboard view with live network information and chart updates
- Geography-based live visualization of the wireless network with color-coded devices and links
- Support for a broad range of alerts to monitor the overall health and status of the wireless network
- Support for seamless real-time integration of Aerodel Director's network data into the application ecosystem.
The Aerodel Director Console provides great insight into the end user's wireless network by featuring a rich graphical user interface. The console provides the best of both worlds by allowing users to securely log in from any desktop browser, and yet experience a rich application interface with features such as live updates, drag and drop, maps, zoom and pan, and animated charts. Users can segment the plant into zones and locations that can be managed separately per local policies. This is very useful when a plant-wide network either grows too large and unwieldy, or for managing multiple network technologies with different configuration and settings, such as WirelessHART, Zigbee and ISA100.11a.