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NAC Standards: Groups Marking Territory





The Trusted Computing Group's Trusted Network Connect working group is intended to create a vendor-neutral set of standards and APIs for NAC.

The TCG TNC working group is comprised of some 70 active vendors, such as Extreme, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Juniper, Nortel and StillSecure, working toward a goal of interoperable NAC. Cisco and Microsoft have competing frameworks but have also demonstrated interoperability. The IETF Network Endpoint Assessment BOF members are trying to become a working group with a charter to unify or develop standards around NAC.

The presence of Cisco and Microsoft seems daunting given their combined market presence. It could be a powerhouse, but if the TNC members can demonstrate conformance to the specifications with interoperable products and raise awareness about their program, they may take the wind out of the Cisco/Microsoft sails.

Efforts by the trusted network connect working group, a subset of the Trusted Computing Group, to create a vendor-neutral set of NAC standards took a hit recently when Cisco and Microsoft announced they've been working to integrate their respective network-access-control architecture frameworks, Network Admission Control and Network Access Protection (see "NAC: The Plot Thickens").

Their work addresses integration and interoperation among components for their products that an industry standard would also deal with. However, though cooperation between the industry giants is a positive sign, it doesn't make all integration problems related to NAC go away, hence the need for vendor-neutral NAC standards.

The TNC standards are driven by that goal of vendor neutrality and still could become the dominant industry standards for NAC. Since May 2005, the group has been chugging along on specs, and it has backing from a large group of vendors, including Microsoft.

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