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Review: Fluke reinvents handheld network testing

Brian Chee | April 9, 2014
The Fluke Networks LinkSprinter makes on-the-fly network testing quick, easy, and more affordable than ever

I'm excited that any HTML5 browser can be used to get the full GUI on the LinkSprinter, but it has implications for how test data is stored. If the LinkSprinter were a fat app, you could potentially store test data on your iPhone or Android device. But then, platform support might be limited to those platforms. Fluke made the choice to support any device with an HTML5 browser, but that means the LinkSprinter currently must have a connection to Fluke's LinkSprinter Cloud Service for data uploads. Your HTML5 device is simply the control panel.

I say "currently" because the LinkSprinter is a platform that could morph radically based on market pressures, and I'm hoping that someday an API will be available that allows application developers to create a fat app front end capable of more advanced network testing. What makes this platform so different from a hacked-together Raspberry Pi is that the LinkSprinter can harvest data from the first three layers of the OSI model. Electrical information from Layer 2, LLDP (Link Layer Discovery Protocol) or CDP (Cisco Discovery Protocol) from Layer 2, and ping and WAN connectivity from Layer 3. The Raspberry Pi's Ethernet interface is really USB, and nothing I've found so far has allowed me to get to the electrical portion of the Ethernet interface.

The LinkSprinter doesn't do any data testing at gigabit speeds, but its electrical interface does allow it to probe the interface to see if it will negotiate a link at gigabit speeds. The compromise is that on a gigabit switch, the LinkSprinter will test the gig link, but perform the data testing at 100Mbps instead -- not a horrible compromise, but you should be aware of it.

LinkSprinter dashboard
Test results from all of your LinkSprinters are uploaded to the LinkSprinter Cloud Service, where you can view them in this dashboard or download them in PDF or CSV format. Click on chart to enlarge.

Cloud companion
The LinkSprinter Cloud Service runs on Heroku and Amazon Web Services. During the initial setup process, the serial number of your LinkSprinter needs to be "claimed" by your cloud service account. This sets up the AES-256 credentials the LinkSprinter will use for all of its cloud communications. The cloud service provides a common data collection point for any number of LinkSprinters, with filtering tools to make it easy to create PDF or CSV reports on any subset of your testing data. Thanks to a free format comment field, installers could easily put in the data jack number combined with data from LLDP or CDP switches to give you a fairly decent start on your network inventory.

 

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