Microsoft donates its NAP software to the public

* Microsoft publicly offers up a protocol for NAC

Microsoft has donated part of its network access protection (NAP) software to the public, and it has been picked up by the Trusted Computing Group as one of its NAC standards.

The protocol is used for the communication between the device trying to get on the network and the server deciding if it actually will. The protocol comes as part of Microsoft’s Vista client, so it will be pretty available on network endpoints after awhile, making it somewhat simpler for business users to deploy NAC.

Along with the announcement of Microsoft’s contribution, Juniper announced that its NAC architecture is compatible with the Microsoft protocol. In other words, they work together, and they demonstrated this at Interop Las Vegas.

Absent from this news is Cisco, whose own CNAC scheme employs its own client software - the Cisco Trust Agent - and uses its own protocol.

Cisco is also not a member of TCG so pays little attention to TCG’s standards. Instead, Cisco is working on standards within the IETF, which doesn’t even have formal proposals yet for this particular protocol.

TCG and IETF efforts are to make it possible for customers of NAC to pick and choose among the makers of the many pieces that comprise NAC deployments. TCG seems to be working faster at it.

NAC is still developing, and vendors of NAC gear are feverishly trying to get customers and stake out claims to as many NAC customers as possible. This is a standard part of any technology development.

Also standard is the development of standards, which usually happens after the vendors have already staked out customers.

That is what is happening here. TCG and its members are coming up with standards early because it helps them grab early customers. Cisco isn’t participating because it can grab more customers by waiting for later standards.

Meanwhile, the Microsoft contribution is good for Microsoft because it makes its Vista client more valuable to customers. It is also good for non-Cisco NAC vendors for whom it means more possible sales.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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