Cisco's acquisition of 802.1x supplier Meetinghouse is likely to weaken the Trusted Computing Group's Trusted Network Connect initiative to provide an open architecture for network access control, analyst firm Gartner has warned.
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Network access control prevents devices that do not meet a minimum security specification from logging on. Such devices are only able to access a quarantine zone, where IT administrators can check them, ensuring that patches and anti-virus signatures are up to date, before giving them access to the full network.
Meetinghouse develops supplicant software, which is used within a network access control infrastructure to enable client devices to find out what security functions the network supports.
Although the industry is working on access control interoperability, Gartner said users needed to be aware that the supplicant they select could affect the way they implement access control in the long-term.
Gartner believes Cisco will end Meetinghouse's participation in the consortium, leaving no independent 802.1x supplicant suppliers. The company has submitted draft Cisco Network Admission Control (CNac) protocols to the Internet Engineering Task Force, but other suppliers have yet to adopt them.
The acquisition would bolster the CNac initiative by eliminating Cisco's reliance on a small suppliers for 802.1x technology, Gartner said. The 802.1x supplicant that Cisco bundles with its CTA endpoint software (a key component of the CNac framework) primarily targets wired networks, and lacks support for Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol (Peap) and other common wireless Lan authentication protocols.
Gartner said Meetinghouse's Aegis supplicant is optimised for wireless Lans and supports Peap and other wireless Lan extensible access protocols. It is also fully compliant with Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 and can be used with mobile devices that run Windows Mobile and CE.
Ben Gibson, director of marketing at Cisco, said, "We have no plans to join the Trusted Network Connect initiative."
Gibson said the Meetinghouse acquisition would allow Cisco to offer enterprise users to manage security across wireless and wired devices in a consistent way.
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