"In the past, even with existing NAC systems, what's happened is that when a PC starts up on the network, the security decision is held off while other things are being run in the background, but we're hoping to see that change and get in the door earlier," he said. "There are some big advantages for getting this type of information to present device security posture assessment sooner in the process, both for desktops and down the road for other types of devices."
Chip technology providers have attempted to market similar CPU-based security tools -- most notably Phoenix Technologies -- but those efforts have gone largely ignored by customers with Phoenix recently scrapping its core software security products based on insufficient demand.
Other third-party NAC technology providers said that Intel's move to embrace NAC should help drive new interest in the systems and codify the industry around the standards it has chosen to support.
"On a functional level, this should prove useful by speeding up testing. Instead of waiting for a machine to boot up to get a posture assessment, the NAC system will already recognize the machine's attributes and begin assigning privileges," said Alan Shimel, chief strategy officer for StillSecure, a maker of NAC software.
Shimel pointed out that while a nice addition, most NAC systems will still need some form of user identification data, typically provided via software that runs on a device OS, to offer full authentication capabilities.
"It will be interesting to see if AMD adopts a similar approach and the same standards; that could have a good effect on the industry as a whole," he said. "It's good to see that Intel is supporting 802.1x because that's the standard most other NAC vendors are working with."
While CPU-level integration is a nice addition, some industry watchers maintain it will still be some time before NAC is deployed widely by large numbers of enterprise customers.
Because NAC doesn't directly address external threats or efforts to comply with government regulations, such as the Payment Card Industry data security guideline, most companies aren't yet budgeting for NAC tools, said Paul Stamp, analyst with Forrester Research.
"The problem with NAC is that in itself it satisfies no compliance mandate directly, and it doesn't protect against any specific type of attack. The real driver for NAC will be when businesses begin to demand so much mobility and collaboration that current security technologies can't meet those goals," Stamp said. "People are struggling to find a driver for NAC right now, and this type of platform-level interaction could be important when they do, but it could be another five years before we see real demand."