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HP pushes 'access control on steroids'

As part of its new Adaptive Network Architecture Service, Hewlett-Packard is offering a network access control tool that enables admins to grant external parties limited access to network resources without punching holes in the corporate firewall.

With businesses become more collaborative and mergers and spin-offs becoming increasingly common, traditional network architectures are becoming anything but traditional. A new service offering from Hewlett-Packard Co. tries to simplify the architecture, while still allowing companies to build flexibility into their networks.

The offering is part of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company's Adaptive Network Architecture Service, and it is now being tested by a handful of customers. It arose from the company's own experiences during its merger with Compaq Computer Corp., as well as lessons learned during in-depth collaborative projects, including a recent one with Intel Corp.

Traditionally, networks have been designed on the perimeter principle. A virtual wall surrounds all of the valuable data on the inside and keeps intruders out. As the need to extend access to external partners has increased, that approach has been tough for many enterprises to maintain, said Dave Passmore, research director with Midvale, Utah-based research firm Burton Group.

IT administrators end up creating a slew of exceptions for every situation, which punches lots of holes in the firewall.

"They are just hoping that the hole is small enough that no one else gets through it," said Nicolas Ganivet, marketing program manager of adaptive network architecture with HP.

In order to accommodate its own internal challenges, HP developed software that creates zones of access on the network. Outside collaborators can be granted common access with HP employees for working on projects, but they will not have access to the entire network.

Instead of taking months to set up a system that either allows outsiders into the network or closes off a spin-off from network access, this system makes that process quicker to implement and easier to manage, Ganivet said.

Though HP is marketing this offering as a service, at its core it is a policy registry tool that enables the network to be cordoned off into containers.

"They have created a router access control list manager on steroids," Passmore said.

Another benefit is that, from the user's perspective, the access is transparent. There are no additional logons. When a user boots up a computer, it already has access to the resources of its partners' networks, Ganivet said.

HP has no plans to sell the software as a standalone product. Instead, it is bundling it as part of the Adaptive Network Architecture Service offering. Also included in the offering is an assessment of the customer's network, design of the system, deployment, management and support.

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