"People have been worried about this problem of incompatibility and have delayed adoption of NAC technologies based on those concerns," said Hanna. "Over the last few years we have had three architectures standing alone with limited compatibility, but aligning two of those is a huge step forward; we eventually hope to get all three together, but this is a very significant announcement in getting the industry to agree around protocols."
To allow for the new TNC specification, dubbed IF-TNCCS-SOH, Microsoft -- which is a member of the consortium -- specifically shared its NAP statement of health (SOH) client-server protocol with TCG. The specification allows for interoperability of NAP clients and servers with TNC clients, servers and infrastructure, officials said.
One of the most significant benefits of the new specification, according to the partners, is that it will eliminate the need for companies using products built on the standard to install additional software on endpoint devices and servers to facilitate the use of different vendors' NAC technologies.
For instance, a customer using Juniper's unified access control (UAC) products can now begin using them in concert with the NAP features built into Vista, tools that will also be made available to computers running on Microsoft's Windows XP operating system through a service pack update to be shipped by Microsoft later this year.
That level of interoperability is what Microsoft had planned for in building NAP into its next-generation technologies, officials with the company said.
"This was a very logical next step for Microsoft and TNC to take to provide the next layer of interoperability for access protection with the delivery of these protocols," said Mike Schutz, group product manager for security and access at Microsoft. "We're very excited by this coming together of the industry to drop barriers and eliminate doubts and confusion that have been associated with these types of technologies."
To illustrate the benefits of the new TCG standard, a number of companies aligned with the effort will show off products at Interop that have been integrated using the specification.
For instance, Juniper will demonstrate how Infranet Controller, the policy management server at the heart of its UAC products, can utilize the onboard security assessment capabilities built into the Windows Vista. A version of the UAC product that supports the new TNC standard will ship sometime in the first half of 2008, company officials said.
"All of the features of the product can now be leveraged more flexibly allowing customers to use their infrastructure for access control without worrying about interoperability, and to make investment choices based on the components they believe will do the best job in their environments," said Karthik Krishnan, senior product line manager at Juniper, which is based in Sunnyvale. Calif. "I think it's reasonable to assume that there will be a lot more customer interest as we start to ship products that support the specification."