Cisco, Microsoft to clash on net security

When Microsoft unveiled its security technology initiative last month, one interesting aspect of it was somewhat buried - the network equipment partners, which include most of the major players other than Cisco.

Enterasys Networks, Extreme Networks, Foundry Networks, HP’s ProCurve Networking group and Juniper Networks all signed up for Microsoft’s Network Access Protection (NAP) program.

NAP is a proposed set of technologies that would verify that a client has all the latest patches and virus-fighting software before allowing it to connect to a network. With security on the top of everyone’s lists, such a capability has become a must-have for networkers.

Cisco has its own initiative - introduced eight months earlier - which not only aims for the same level of protection but also has a similar name, Network Admission Control (NAC).

Other examples include Enterasys, which has done its own work along these lines, but had to bring in Zone Labs and Sygate to make it happen. And Nortel works with third parties as well to fulfill this function.

But now that Microsoft has gotten security religion, the software giant has effectively recruited the entire anybody-but-Cisco crowd on this - including Enterasys - and it’s still just a vision, really. With Microsoft’s recent track record on security, it could be a while before the vision becomes reality - but certainly, the momentum of the industry behind it should be a boost.

Meanwhile, the questions of whether or when Cisco’s NAC will somehow interoperate or merge with Microsoft’s NAP is still open. On the one hand, Cisco sells more network equipment than anybody, and on the other, Microsoft is, well, Microsoft. The irresistible force meets the immovable object.

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