"The great advantage with NAP is interoperability, not only with networking gear, but all the external AV vendors," said Amith Krishnan, senior product manager at Microsoft. "We think that along with existing Microsoft security technologies in Vista and [SharePoint Server] this represents our ability to offer customers end-to-end protection for the first time."
Windows Server 2008 may help speed adoption of NAC
While pointing out that it will likely take time for NAP to become widely adopted by end-users and that the access control technology has yet to prove itself as enterprise-grade, representatives at security market leader Symantec observed that the tool's arrival should prove beneficial for customers, at least in terms of fostering NAC integration.
"I don't think that its the technology that is so interesting, but rather the fact that this is a well thought-out, fairly open architecture that can bring more legitimacy to NAC as a technology," said Rich Langston, senior manager of product management at Symantec. "Its arrival should bring additional comfort to existing adopters of the technology. When we talk to customers about the capabilities of NAC, they tend to have a lot of concerns [about interoperability]. Having NAP built into Vista and Longhorn should solve a lot of objections."
As a result, many customers that have been holding off on using NAC -- thought to be a valuable method for keeping infected devices off of corporate networks -- may decide to adopt the technology now that it is fully supported in Microsoft's newest products, he said.
At least one customer working with a beta version of Windows Server 2008 said that the product does indeed represent a substantial improvement over previous versions in terms of fostering more comprehensive security.
Matt Okuma, enterprise architect at Pacific Coast Companies, a building materials manufacturing specialist with close to 4,000 employees, said that the integrated security features in Windows Server 2008 are appealing from the standpoint of both integration and security budget management.
"People have companies they feel safe with using, and we're comfortable using Microsoft because when you have a product so large and your IT support staff isn't that big, you need a common platform for security, and Microsoft has that now," Okuma said. "For us, just the work needed to integrate third-party security tools for some of these functions would likely lead to us being less secure overall."
From the improvements made to the underlying software code derived via SDLC to the addition of NAP, the customer said that he is encouraged by what Windows Server 2008 can bring to the table in terms of bolstering IT security. "You can only assume that there will be some pain points with getting everything that runs with Server '03 to run with Server '08, but it seems like [Microsoft] has done all the work," he said. "If we can do NAP without buying a third-party product for access control that will be great; I don't want to introduce another piece of software if we can use a common platform."
Industry analysts said that the security improvements resident in Longhorn may not have the same big-bang effect as those that first appeared in Windows Server 2003, including the impact of SDLC, which was used to drum vulnerabilities out if that product, but the experts said that the new release should been seen as an extension of the software maker's commitment to improving the stability of its products.