This is the year for network and security managers to view network access control (NAC) vendor selection as a tactical and a strategic decision, according to a recently released report by Gartner.
The analyst firm advises companies that are unable to implement infrastructure-based NAC by the end of this year should instead begin with either endpoint software-based or appliance-based NAC solutions with a view to developing a strategy for integrating these with infrastructure-based NAC.
Authored by a trio of Gartner analysts, MarketScope for NAC 2007 reports Microsoft, Cisco and other infrastructure vendors are adding NAC functionality into their core products, along with many endpoint security vendors. By 2009, many enterprises will be in a position to turn on these embedded NAC capabilities.
NAC is increasingly becoming a important network security technology. In its most basic form, it enforces organisational policies on systems when they attempt to connect to the network or enter a particular part of the network (for example, when they connect from an edge switch into the core). A NAC system then makes determinations about the device and provides access control decisions based on those ratings.
Gartner identified three approaches to implementing NAC: the infrastructure-based approach, which is not yet mature; appliance-based; and endpoint software. It said the latter two methods "allow enterprises to implement NAC utilising their existing network infrastructure and current versions of Windows". Gartner said these methods would gain increased traction in 2007.
"We view the NAC market in 2007 as a collection of tactical solutions that enterprises will deploy for the typical three-year life cycle of IT," the report stated.
Earlier in the year, a study by Infonetics showed NAC vendor revenue will skyrocket from $US323 million in 2005 to $US3.9 billion in 2008.
Sydney-based valued added distributor, Unixpac, has had a commercial arrangement since October to sell the NAC product of a small start-up called Insightix.
Managing director, Tom Piotrowski, has already talked to a lot of companies about NAC.
"Companies can see the benefits of this technology. It has been an eye opener for companies that have been running cumbersome networks, " he said.
(Steve Hultquist contributed to this article).
A full feature on what NAC can offer the channel will appear in the March 28 issue of ARN.