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Juniper Pushes TNC-Based NAC

Juniper baits network access control hook with emerging standards, but most enterprises aren't biting yet

Juniper Networks today launched its next-generation architecture for network access control, touting standards and giving potential customers a clearer idea of its product roadmap. But whether its reliance on standards will make a dent against NAC competitors Cisco and Microsoft remains an open question.

Juniper unveiled Unified Access Control 2.0, its promised NAC solution combining its original UAC 1.0 with elements of the Funk Software product line it acquired last year. Juniper said its Infranet Controller and UAC Agent have been enhanced to incorporate Funk's 802.1x supplicant and Steel Belted RADIUS, improving its ability to secure guest devices, contractor desktops, and mobile clients.

"What we've developed here is a single set of technologies that work for all of the major instances in which an enterprise would need NAC: to secure guests, contractors, and mobile users," says Steven Phillips, director of marketing at Juniper.

UAC 2.0 is being positioned as one of the first NAC packages to support both 802.1x and Trusted Network Connect, the Trusted Computing Group's proposed industry standard for NAC. Juniper has used its support of standards to differentiate its offerings from those of market leader Cisco, which has been noncommittal in its support for TNC.

"You can't buy a switch that's not 802.1x compliant anymore, so that's a capability we wanted to take advantage of," Phillips says. "And since a lot of vendors are moving toward TNC, it makes sense for us to move our open APIs from UAC 1.0 in that direction."

The NAC market has divided into three camps: Cisco's Network Admission Control; Microsoft's Network Access Protection (NAP); and TNG's TNC plan. Cisco and Microsoft profess to be working together on interoperability; Microsoft also is allegedly on the record with support for TNG specs. It's a dynamic, emerging market, to say the least. (See Analysis: Network Access Control.)

Some TNC proponents and Cisco competitors offered support for Juniper's direction. "In today's complex networks, vendor-exclusive solutions are neither pragmatic nor comprehensive," says Keerti Melkote, founder of wireless network provider Aruba Networks. "Enterprises are demanding networking and security solutions that interoperate in a functional way."

But other experts are less enthusiastic about TNC's near-term impact, given the still-developing state of the standard and a lack of strong support from leaders such as Cisco.

"TNC appears to me to be a work in progress and therefore, I don't think the statement of support has any real meaning yet," says Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, an IT consultancy. "The concept is interesting, but IT departments have become more pragmatic of late and tend to avoid excitement until standards like this are fully cooked and supported by multiple vendors, particularly the majors. "

Andrew Braunberg, an analyst at Current Analysis, agrees. "There is strong demand for some type of NAC standard out there, but TNC still doesn't have a whole lot of traction in the market," he says. "Cisco doesn't appear to be very interested in it, and Microsoft holds a lot of the cards."

Juniper remains steadfast in its push toward TNC. "We think the market wants an environment where they have a choice," Phillips says.

UAC 2.0 will be available in Dec. List prices start at $15,000 for 100 users; current UAC 1.x customers can upgrade for free.

—Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading