This year both Interop and RSA were dominated by information, buzz and spin about NAC. It looks like the New York Interop in September will be no different. Brian Chee at Information Week is reporting that Interop’s iLabs will be focusing on NAC. Of interest to many will be an early look at Microsoft’s NAP. We’ll have to keep tabs about what will be shown as we get closer to the show.
There’s a very interesting social dynamic in the NAC market; who in the organization buys NAC solutions? My experience has been that while the security staff may bring in the vendors its actually the network organization that has the real say. Network has the budget. Network has to implement, and NAC has to go into the infrastructure managed by the network team.
So why the question about the adoption of MS NAP (Microsoft’s solution to NAC)? Another social dynamic is that there is traditionally a great divide between Windows admins and network engineers. The same kind of riff that fuels the Windows and Linux debate (but Windows/Linux is bigger and gets more press.) So my question is where will MS NAP really be successful? Who will likely adopt it first?
It may be counter to popular thinking but I believe NAP’s first inroads (and possibly most successful) could be in the SMB market. Why? In those markets the Windows admins usually are also the network admins. They run the network as well as the Windows infrastructure. There’s no barrier to cross. (One of the reasons Cisco’s CSA/Okeana didn’t light up and win the NAC marketplace for example.) Since NAP is all about using more Microsoft products who better to adopt and roll out NAP than SMBs. SMBs are much more likely to be an all Windows shop. NAP isn’t as likely to butt up against non-Windows access control, VPN, RADIUS or other elements that a network engineer would implement over a Microsoft solution. Of course there are many SMB shops that run Microsoft but use Linux for many network services (DNS, DHCP, firewall, etc.) too.
Will MS NAP break into the enterprise market? Sure, but how much is the question will a heterogeneous infrastructure make NAP difficult to adopt? Microsoft’s software is converging with elements of the network infrastructure and like water it will follow the path of least resistance.