Microsoft to add 802.1x support to NAP client for XP

Client expected to go into beta early 2007

Microsoft has confirmed it will add to Windows XP an 802.1x client for its Network Access Protection security infrastructure, according to the manager working on the technology.

The 802.1x NAP client for XP is expected to go into beta early next year. The plan is to have the XP NAP client match the Vista client with support for IPsec, DHCP, VPN and now 802.1x, said Jeff Sigman, NAP release manager, in his NAP blog on Monday. The 802.1x XP client will support requests for network access over both wired and wireless networks.

Sigman did not say if the client would include both XP and XP SP2, but the original road map for NAP called for plans to investigate creating a client for XP SP2 only.

"I am really excited about offering this to customers on both Vista and now XP," Sigman wrote. Microsoft is shipping NAP capability with every edition of Vista, although users will have to deploy certain policies to activate it.

Sigman also announced that the NAP Server, which enforces network policy on access control, will only be available on Longhorn Server, which is slated to ship at the end of 2007. The server was originally suppose to ship for Windows 2003 R2, but those plans have been scraped. Sigman said a NAP Server beta program open to a large number of participants would be launched in 2007.

NAP is Microsoft's network access control technology for verifying that a client desktop is secure before being let onto a network. The NAP technology will check for virus signatures and patch levels as a way to assess the "health" of a desktop. The client's health would be validated against a set of policies and those that do not pass could be put into an isolation area where they would be updated to comply with policies and eventually gain network access.

Cisco is working on similar technology called Network Admission Control and earlier this year the two vendors demonstrated integration between the two platforms and said they have plans for a beta of the integration technology later this year.

802.1X is an IEEE standard for port-based network access control and provides authentication to devices attached to a LAN port or wireless access point.

Sigman also cleared up the road map for release of NAP including that the XP client will be available via Windows Update before the release of Longhorn Server. A client for Windows Server 2003 will be available via Windows Update also before the release of Longhorn Server.

The current beta of the NAP XP client without the 802.1x support is available to those in the Vista/Longhorn Beta Program.

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