Burning NAC questions

Take a look at important questions surrounding Cisco, NAC implementation and NAC policies.

Part 2 of 2. In the second part of our look at important network-access control issues, we take a look at important questions surrounding Cisco, NAC implementation and NAC policies. Review part 1, 'Who Needs NAC Anyway?' here.

Shouldn't I just wait for Cisco?

There's really no need to wait because depending on what you want out of NAC, Cisco may already have it.

And if Cisco doesn't yet offer what you want, there is still no need to wait because you can get alternatives from other vendors.

Cisco has a NAC appliance that can check devices before they get network access for virus software that it is updated and turned on and whether patch levels meet policy.

That said, the device is criticized by some for what it cannot do. "Cisco remains behind many of the other vendors in this space because of the inability to perform assessment checks beyond initial connection," says Mandy Andress in her recent review of the appliance for Network World.

For example, the device does not perform periodic rechecks of devices once they have been admitted to the network to make sure they maintain their security posture.

The Cisco NAC Appliance does afford multiple enforcement methods, including placing the device inline with traffic where it can restrict traffic directly, having it work in tandem with 802.1X authentication or running it out of band where it controls an access switch. It can also enforce NAC for devices attaching via SSL or IPSec VPN through Cisco gear.

There are other appliances from other vendors that do more, and if Cisco's appliance comes up short, these others can fill the bill.

Cisco also has a scheme that builds NAC into its network architecture, a design that scales better for large rollouts. One of the problems all NAC customers face is that NAC appliances in general don't scale large enough to accommodate a major corporate-wide deployment without relying on many appliances, says Rob Whiteley, an analyst with Forrester Research. Cisco's network-based NAC requires certain switch specifications that may mean upgrades for some customers. As a result, some are holding off until they need to upgrade.

One problem customers see with Cisco NAC is that it has two separate designs that don't have interchangeable parts. Currently Cisco NAC Appliance and its network-based NAC Framework have separate clients to evaluate the security posture of network endpoints.

Also, the NAC Framework relies on Cisco's Access Control Server (ACS) to determine which access policy to apply while the NAC Appliance relies on its own management server to determine if endpoints are in compliance.

Cisco has a migration strategy called OneNAC to simplify the transition between appliance and network-based NAC with interchangeable clients and a single server. But that plan still has some details to be ironed out.

Regardless of its comparative merits, Cisco's NAC has a solid base of loyal customers, according to Current Analysis' latest annual NAC study. The report says that 67 percent of current Cisco NAC Appliance customers and 68 percent of Cisco NAC Framework customers would consider buying more Cisco NAC gear.

The flip side is that the numbers imply that about a third of these customers would not consider more Cisco NAC products, but the survey doesn't state their reasons.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Greene

Network World
Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >


Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >

Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?