Network World this week published a brutal takedown of the network access control industry, called “NAC: What went wrong?” Consultant Joel Snyder wrote the article after spending four months lab testing the leading 12 NAC products. His conclusion? Five years of hype, new products, vendor launches, vendor collapses and standardization battles have produced a lot of smoke and not much else. The market is scattered, he says. All 12 top vendors are moving in 12 different directions.
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Snyder writes that Cisco Systems in particular is guilty of going off the rails with NAC. Basically Cisco’s acquisition-happy ways has led to yet another case of two many cooks in the kitchen. Its acquisition of Perfigo, a vendor of a wireless access gateway product, evolved into the overlay product Cisco NAC Appliance. Meanwhile Cisco’s routing and switching business unit has built its own NAC product, Cisco Secure Access Control Server. If even Cisco can’t decide how to tackle the NAC market, how is an enterprise to figure out which direction to go.
Regardless of the failures of the NAC industry to truly catch fire, I continue to be amazed by the industry’s ability to continue supporting so many different vendors. Sure there are plenty of network infrastructure and network security vendors that can dabble in NAC as a side business. But there are still plenty of independent start-ups out there, too. They’re still trucking along, with few taking the next big leap to an IPO or a buyout. Occasionally you’ll see one go under, like ConSentry Networks, but the others insist they’re doing just fine.
Trusted Computing Group (TCG), the not-for-profit independent standards-body which promotes vendor-neutral NAC standards, has issued a response to Network World’s takedown with an email entitled “What’s Right with NAC?”
TCG cites a projection from Gartner that NAC will become a mature marketwithin two to five years (Gartner issued its first NAC Magic Quadrant last summer). TCG goes on to say: “Well, we agree with both Mr. Snyder at Network World and with [Gartner]. Certainly the path to NAC products has been neither short nor particularly easy, but today there are a lot of good products to choose from and people ARE using NAC successfully.”