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Anatomy of the Deal: Microsoft and Cisco

An inside look at prominent deals within the Microsoft partner community. Part of an occasional series.

Cisco Systems Inc. is the leading vendor of networking devices and applications for the Internet. The networking giant racked up $28.5 billion in sales in its fiscal year 2006, ended July 29.

Cisco and Microsoft have a history of collaboration on products, architectures and technologies.

The Deal
Cisco and Microsoft announced in September at the Security Standard conference in Boston that the companies' network protocol technologies -- Cisco's Network Admission Control (NAC) and Microsoft's Network Access Protection (NAP) -- will interoperate. The companies had announced two years ago that they would work toward interoperability of the standards. Both protocols are aimed at preventing infected devices from accessing corporate networks.

Mark Ashida, general manager of Windows enterprise networking at Microsoft, says NAP consists of two pieces: a client component that will be included in the forthcoming Vista operating system and a network policy server component that will run on the forthcoming Windows "Longhorn" server. Therefore, Ashida says, NAP won't be fully available until Longhorn server ships in the second half of 2007. Cisco's NAC is currently in operation, and the two protocols will interoperate as soon as NAP is available.

"Start rolling out Cisco NAC, and as Longhorn server ships and you start deploying Vista, you can phase your rollouts," says Joe Sirrianni, senior solutions manager for Cisco's security technology group. "You don't have to do any creative scheduling and management of all of that."

BY THE NUMBERS

Redmond's Real Estate
Property owned worldwide:
9.9 million square feet
Property leased worldwide:
12 million square feet
Total amount of property:
21.9 million square feet*

Source: Microsoft; *as of August 2006

How Partners Will Benefit
Independent software vendors (ISVs) have a single application programming interface (API) to write to, Sirrianni notes. "VARs can create a solution that leverages most efficiently what the customer has already and deploy where the customer is going," he says.

Neil MacDonald, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn., says NAC-NAP interoperability will reduce the complexity of deploying network security infrastructures. As a result, both partners and customers will benefit, MacDonald says: "It makes life a whole lot easier."

How Cisco and Microsoft Will Benefit
Interoperability will satisfy customers of both companies who were complaining that a lack of NAC-NAP integration would make for difficult network set-ups, MacDonald says. "They were under tremendous pressure from their customers saying this was ridiculous -- it made no sense," he says.

"[Customers] wanted to ensure that the two companies were working together," Sirrianni says. "Most customers have a fairly large Microsoft investment and a fairly large Cisco investment."

Ashida adds that aside from just interoperating with NAC, Microsoft intends to eventually make NAP available on multiple platforms, including Unix, Linux and the Macintosh operating system.

"I believe NAP is one of the most open things that Microsoft has done," Ashida says.

About the Author

Lee Pender is the executive features editor of Redmond magazine. You can reach him at lpender@redmondmag.com or follow him on Twitter.

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