Network security

Cisco Systems has teamed up with Microsoft to ensure that their respective computer and networking security architectures are compatible and interoperable.

Last year, Cisco launched what it called the Self-Defending Network Initiative (SDNI). A major part of that initiative was Cisco’s Network Admission Control (NAC) program, which uses Cisco’s network infrastructure to enforce admission privileges to ‘end-point’ devices – PCs, servers or PDAs based on their security status and their compliance with a network’s security policies.

As part of the Microsoft/Cisco agreement, the two companies will work to ensure that the Cisco NAC and Microsoft’s very own Network Access Protection (NAP) security architectures will work together by understanding and passing enforcement decisions between them. To ensure that compatibility, Cisco and Microsoft will share application programmer interfaces (APIs) and protocols.

Cisco is also giving Microsoft a license to evaluate the Cisco NAC wire protocol for use as part of the Microsoft quarantine system, and in return Microsoft is giving Cisco a license to evaluate the Microsoft NAP client and server APIs as a way to build interoperability into future versions of Cisco NAC.

Cisco and Microsoft have also pledged to work toward driving industry standards in network admissions and access control technologies to help promote wide market adoption.

‘Historically, security for the network and for endpoints such as personal computers and servers has been treated separately. But that approach clearly is not adequate for successfully defending against modern network threats,’ said Cisco’s Jayshree Ullal.

‘By joining together with Microsoft, we believe we can create much more resilient, intelligent and proactive defences against hackers, viruses and other threats to computing and communications systems,’ he added.