Is Cisco an identity company?

In response to my posting this morning about Symantec coming around to identity management ("Security is like Love"), a commenter asks, "What about Cisco?"

In response to my posting this morning about Symantec coming around to identity management ("Security is like Love"), a commenter asks, "What about Cisco?" The simple answer is "yes," Cisco is also coming around to identity.

Network Access Control (or as Cisco calls it, "Network Admission Control") is one of the hot topics in the world of networking (see recent coverage of the Interop conference). Essentially, Network Access Control ("NAC" for short) is a recognition that the "firewall" of the enterprise must be permeable; a recognition that then seeks methods for client health checks, access controls, and authorization rights as remote people and devices login to the corporate network. Oddly, NAC is only now coming to be seen as an "identity" solution to a network problem.

Traditionally, "identity management" has referred to products that seek to abstract provisioning, access and authorization from the application layer -- i.e., identity management has been application-based. NAC is now working on similar problems at the networking layer. And in so doing, NAC vendors are beginning to realize that they actually operate in the "identity" space. The reason is simple: you can't deal with RADIUS servers for too long before you realize that "authentication" isn't your core problem, "identity" (in all of its aspects) is.

Evidence of this can be seen in companies like Identity Engines, ForeScout, and ConSentry -- three innovative companies that are focused on identity-based NAC.

I'm also seeing it as we work on content for this year's Digital ID World conference. Putting together one panel to explore identity-based NAC has turned into multiple sessions covering a range of NAC-related topics involving folks like the aforementioned Identity Engines, Juniper and Jon Oltsik from the Enterprise Strategy Group.

The point is that NAC is waking up to just how influential it is becoming in the world of identity. As networking and application-based identity management converge, the product ramifications are several fold. I'd also expect some interesting partnerships and acquisitions to emerge. So to answer the question, "What about Cisco as an identity company?" -- a resounding yes.

Do you think John Chambers' knows?

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