* Is NAC-as-a-service a viable business?

The recent purchase of Mirage Networks by service provider Trustwave raises questions about whether NAC-as-a-service is a viable business.

Gartner analyst Lawrence Orans says in a blog that his firm doesn’t see much demand among its clients for NAC managed services.

451 Group analyst Yulitza Peraza says in a blog about startups with funding challenges that the sale indicates that NAC as a technology isn’t really a market.

Orans leaves open the possibility that NAC managed services will be attractive to some businesses, perhaps small to midsized businesses that lack the technical expertise to deploy new technologies or that just like to have a reliable monthly bill rather than the unknown costs of in-house management. But Gartner’s customers aren’t asking about it.

Peraza mentions the $40 million or so Mirage raised in venture capital over eight years vs. what the company was sold for. She estimates that Trustwave paid just $10 million, but the companies involved aren’t saying, so it’s unclear how accurate the estimate is. “The network access control vendor raised some $40 [million] before discovering that NAC wasn’t really a market after all,” she says.

If that’s what they discovered, they’re not saying so. As part of Trustwave, they're trying to make a go of NAC as appliances and services.

It’s pretty clear NAC is a market, with Infonetics projecting continued though slowing growth through 2011 when it says sales of NAC appliances will reach $534 million.

What is less clear is the form NAC will ultimately take. It is becoming blended within other hardware platforms so it will become harder and harder to isolate how many businesses are using it.

Whether in appliances, network infrastructure or services, though, NAC has made its foothold. Shrinking of the number of NAC vendors doesn’t indicate that the technology is dead.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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