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Microsoft and Cisco build joint access control system

Antony Savvas

Companies considering rolling out network access control systems may want to wait until a joint Cisco/Microsoft system comes to fruition, analyst firm Gartner has advised.

Earlier this month, Cisco Systems and Microsoft outlined how their network access control frameworks – Cisco Network Admission Control (CNac) and Microsoft Network Access Protection (MNap) – would interoperate.

Gartner said organisations must decide whether to continue with their current network access control plans or wait for the integrated system.

Later this year, the companies will release a beta with CNac and MNap interoperability, ready for use with Microsoft’s forthcoming Longhorn server operating system.

This integration promises to provide an interoperable network access control system using network equipment from Cisco and Microsoft’s Windows Vista desktop operating system.

Gartner said this infrastructure could offer enterprises more architectural and product choices than are available through either supplier’s current frameworks.

The tie-up between Microsoft and Cisco will not require software agents, policy servers or other access control-related infrastructure from third parties. It will, however, require an updated version of Cisco  Access Control Server, Microsoft  Active Directory and Microsoft  Network Policy Server (formerly Windows Internet Authentication Server).

With these in place, enterprises can integrate their third-party systems with the application programming interfaces jointly developed by Cisco and Microsoft.

Longhorn is expected to be released in the second half of next year. Gartner expects that both suppliers will continue to deliver their individual network access control systems when the integrated product is available.

Since enterprises must wait until Longhorn is rolled out to deploy the integrated CNac/MNap approach, Gartner said the success of large-scale implementations of the joint framework (those using 10,000 or more nodes) cannot be assessed until the first quarter of 2008, or later.

For users running both Cisco and Microsoft infrastructure, Gartner said firms planning to deploy Windows Vista to their desktops in 2007, and preparing to implement Longhorn on select servers, should evaluate the integrated CNac/MNap framework along with independent network access control systems for deployment in early 2008.

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