"NAC needs to be unified into a single security architecture; that's what NAC 2.0 can do, it can tell you not just who is on the network, but what are they doing there. That's the real potential," he said. "How we as an industry can tie the pieces together to work as a whole, and then tie them back to specific business objectives around cost and managements issues, will largely help determine the future of NAC in general."
Some other NAC vendors agree, and hurl far stronger words at market giant Cisco, which is often credited as the founder of the security niche but is now seen by some as its biggest barrier.
When Cisco launched its OneNAC strategy earlier this year -- essentially telling customers to buy its simpler network admission NAC appliances today and to worry about broader uses of the technology tomorrow -- some smaller vendors claimed the firm was attempting to cover up its own product shortcomings by intentionally disbursing interest in other types of applications.
Cisco has no plans to embrace NAC 2.0 as described by Hanna, said Dominic Wilde, vice president of marketing for Nevis Networks, a maker of network admission and policy enforcement appliances.
And while the market is ready to move forward as Hanna envisions, the networking giant is purposefully trying to confuse customers, Wilde said.
"What Cisco did with OneNAC was try to stall the market because they knew that their framework wasn't ready for customers, and they realized that they helped create a market that their products cannot presently serve," Wilde said. "The bigger idea was for NAC to include threat prevention and access management on an applications level; unlike a lot of other vendors, Cisco can't deliver on that vision of NAC today, so they're trying to keep people focused on their narrow definition."
Another extremely influential player in the evolution of NAC is Microsoft, which has built its own flavor of the technology, Network Access Protection (NAP), into its next generation server OS, code-named Longhorn, due out in early 2008.
While Microsoft hasn't even yet delivered its version of NAC, Wilde said that the time differential is forgivable, as the notion of having the technology aligned with one of the OS giant's most popular product's is enthralling to nearly everyone.
Like Intel's work to build TCG's pre-connect footprint into its vPro and Centrino chips -- which could allow devices to be authenticated even before they boot up their OS -- the benefits of having NAP built into Longhorn are worth waiting for, he said.
Meanwhile, Cisco executives don't seem to be in any hurry to manipulate their plans to suit the outcry of rival vendors like Juniper and Nevis, one of a vast number of smaller independent NAC tools providers.
Earlier this month, the networking behemoth announced the availability of its Network Admission Control (NAC) Guest Server package, which is aimed specifically at helping companies manage network admission for visitors.
Building guest access is considered the starting point for embracing NAC within most companies, and it remains the use case where Cisco continues to see most of its demand, said company representatives.
Other vendors may be hungry to push customers into other uses for the technology, but that effort may be grounded more in self interest than actual market dynamics, Cisco NAC product managers said.