Monday, 05 March 2018 22:13

Review – NETSCOUT LinkRunner G2 smart network tester


To serve this modern world with a rapid proliferation of connected devices and a rich variety of networking opportunities, NETSCOUT has a new smart network tester, the LinkRunner G2. iTWire tested it out.

Like the NETSCOUT AirCheck G2 Wi-Fi tester which iTWire looked at previously, the LinkRunner G2 is a handsomely-presented, robust, portable, enterprise-grade tool for network professionals to test and troubleshoot wired and wireless networks.

However, unlike its predecessors, the LinkRunner G2 is the world’s first Android-based smart network tester for the connected world.

The underlying Android operating system is not merely a “by the way” with a restricted environment on top — like a Smart TV, for example — but instead a real Android device allowing you to install and run apps from the Google Play store – email, SSH and RDP apps for example.

LinkRunnerG2 4

This means users already benefit from a familiar operating system. The device comes with attributes you’d expect from a smartphone such as speaker and microphone, camera and flush, multi-day standby and display rotation.

Android apps gain the use of the device’s wired ethernet connection. In fact, the unit offers multiple interfaces including traditional copper-based network connections, fibre, WiFi and Bluetooth. It has microSD and USB ports allowing you to store files documents on external storage such as network diagrams and architectures and training videos, and to plug in USB device like keyboards and mice, even on such a small system.

It supports emerging power over ethernet (PoE) standards, including 51W UPOE as used for building automation initiatives. You can use the LinkRunner G2 to measure voltage and pairs used and verify power delivery, while simultaneously helpfully keeping it charged.

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The network functions are where the device comes into its own, thoroughly valuing connectivity and network services including:

  1. link speed and duplex measurement
  2. nearest switch discovery
  3. DHCP, DNS and routing verification
  4. Web connectivity testing

You can upload your results to an optional, but useful, cloud-based facility provided by NETSCOUT named Link-Live, helping you record and compare your results.

LinkRunnerG2 1

We could go on and on about all the protocols and applications the LinkRunner G2 effortlessly eats up - packet reflection, pink tests, TCP port connectivity tests, cable validation including distance to fault and on and on. You can see this for yourself in the online data sheet. It is a magnificent and truly enterprise-grade device aimed for the network professional, and we’ve come to expect this from NETSCOUT, but where it really stands out from the crowd is the Android capabilities making it quite realistically a laptop replacement for on-the-field work.

Here’s where it comes into its own. The device is an all-in-one, and it removes the risk of technicians using their personal equipment. You can realistically imagine a streamlined workflow in your department where your experts pick up the LinkRunner G2 and via Android applications and built-in tools they:

  1. sign in and pick up jobs and tickets for the day
  2. consult documentation whether an internal wiki, online sites, PDF docs or something else
  3. provision network elements, whether configuration elements or physical cabling
  4. take photographs and make notes
  5. test DHCP and other protocols
  6. remote into networking devices via SSH, RDP, HTTPS or other protocols
  7. connect into networking devices via USB to serial cables, ethernet or other options
  8. keep the device charged by drawing from PoE sockets
  9. illuminate cupboards and under desks with the device’s torch
  10. connect to USB or Bluetooth devices as needed - for example, copy network information from test tools and paste into a label maker app, printing to a USB label printer
  11. diagnose network performance and vulnerabilities
  12. report findings and activities back to the ticketing system, into the wiki, email to end users or other forms

You can find more technical detail online, but if you’re a networking professional who currently carries a host of equipment and has to make time for administration back at your desk, the NETSCOUT LinkRunner G2 has real potential to not only provide valuable networking insights, but to transform your workflow and create real efficiencies.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.



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