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Cisco, Microsoft Unveil NAC Domination Plans

Cisco Systems and Microsoft have launched an ambitious partnership that will, if successful, dominate the network access control market--and perhaps others as well. NAC solutions inspect the security state of every device that requests network access.

In this pairing, Microsoft benefits by having a partner with dominance in network infrastructure. Cisco benefits by getting access to the most dominant operating system on the planet while maintaining compatibility with non-Microsoft OSs, notably Apple's MacOS X. The partnership also gives Cisco leverage as the infrastructure of choice: unifying the hardware and maintaining integration points with Microsoft is a compelling selling point. Antivirus and patch-management vendors also benefit, because a Cisco partner that integrates with Cisco NAC gains entrance into a Microsoft shop, and vice versa.

At risk are vendors that make NAC products that directly compete with Cisco, such as ConSentry and Nevis. These companies require the purchase of additional hardware, which becomes a tougher selling point in the face of promised integration between Cisco and Microsoft.

If the superpowers can make this partnership work--no vendor has yet to make significant traction in the NAC market--it may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Both companies are making noise about unified communications, which also benefits from tight integration. Stay tuned! --Mike Fratto, [email protected]