Cisco, Microsoft unveil NAC/NAP interoperability

After nearly two years and a lot of suspected smoke-and-mirrors, Cisco Systems and Microsoft yesterday revealed a joint architecture that pairs each of the tech giants’ network access security solutions.

At yesterday’s Security Standard conference in Boston, executives outlined the interoperability between Cisco’s Network Admission Control (NAC) and Microsoft’s Network Access Protection (NAP), making good on a partnership that was announced in October 2004.

A newly released downloadable white paper details how both NAC and NAP will work together for security policy enforcement and health assessment as part of a single architecture. The paper also details how to embed Cisco’s network infrastructure with Microsoft’s Windows Vista desktop operating system and future versions of the OS server called Longhorn.

The two powerhouse vendors also released a roadmap for bringing the NAC and NAP combination to market, with beta programs scheduled for later this year. Once Longhorn becomes available in late 2007, users will be able to deploy the Cisco/Microsoft solution. As part of the pairing, Cisco and Microsoft have cross-licensed their NAC and NAP protocols to ensure interoperability.

Yankee Group vice president Zeus Kerravala said the long-expected pairing gives users flexibility in their network access choices. Since Microsoft NAP will be desktop focused and Cisco NAC is network focused, there will be no need for a string of smaller in-line appliances to achieve comprehensive