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Cisco and Microsoft Team to Improve Network Security

Companies will work toward compatibility, interoperability of respective security architectures

October 18, 2004

Cisco Systems has teamed with Microsoft to take another major step in its efforts to improve network and computer resource defenses against the rapidly growing array of virus, worms, hackers and other threats. This month the two companies announced they will work together to ensure compatibility and develop interoperability between their respective security architectures. For Cisco this collaboration further demonstrates the company's commitment to reinventing network security.

To provide its customers the kind of technology defenses they need, last year Cisco launched the Self-Defending Network Initiative (SDNI). The initiative provides a groundbreaking architectural and conceptual approach to security. The initiative relies on increased coordination between the network and the computers, servers, and other devices tied to the network. A major step in SDNI is Cisco's Network Admission Control (NAC) program, which uses Cisco's network infrastructure to enforce admission privileges to "end-point" devices-personal computers, servers or PDAs-based on the security status of those end-points and their compliance with a network's security policies. Joining with Microsoft will be a key aid in the development of NAC.

News@Cisco spoke with Jayshree Ullal, senior vice president of Cisco's Security and Technology Group, and Bob Muglia, Microsoft's senior vice president of the Windows Server Division, about this latest announcement and how it will help the two companies provide improved network and computer security.

Why are Cisco and Microsoft entering into this collaboration?

Jayshree Ullal: It is clear that the threat from viruses, worms, hackers and other attacks presents a major challenge for organizations. This integration effort aims to help customers better utilize their existing investments in Microsoft and Cisco's products and technologies. The collaboration has the bottom-line goal of improving the security of our customers' networked systems and information assets while reducing the costs of security management. In working with Microsoft, Cisco is again demonstrating its leadership in network security by developing new approaches and technologies for protecting IT resources.

Bob Muglia: Our customers have been telling us that they want Microsoft and Cisco's security architectures to work together, so it's a very big customer win that both solutions will be able to easily co-exist. Customers can select either solution without excluding the other or deploy components from both and receive the unique benefits that each provides.

What are the terms of the collaboration?

Bob Muglia: As a first step, we've agreed to ensure that Cisco's Network Admission Control (NAC) and Microsoft's Network Access Protection (NAP) security architectures will work together by understanding and passing enforcement decisions between them. Cisco and Microsoft will share application programmer interfaces (APIs) and protocols to ensure that compatibility. As a result, customers will be able to deploy components of each architecture that best serve their needs

Jayshree Ullal: This is a long-term, multi-phased collaboration to share and integrate each other's network security products and technologies. This will make it easier for our customers to defend their IT resources and manage their security. Specifically, Cisco is giving Microsoft a license to evaluate the Cisco NAC wire protocol for use as part of the Microsoft quarantine system, and 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, making integrated security defenses more viable.

What benefits do you hope this collaboration will provide your mutual customers?

Bob Muglia: By placing the customer at the center, Microsoft and Cisco are taking a first step towards interoperability that will enable customers to improve their security through a robust and layered approach. At the same time, the collaboration will make it easier for companies to deploy and manage the security technologies from Microsoft and Cisco and save money.

Jayshree Ullal: The announcement is another step in our development of the Self-Defending Network Initiative. A key premise of the Self-Defending Network is that endpoints such as personal computers, servers or PDAs are an integral part of any communications system and the network needs to coordinate its security technologies with these devices in order to create more effective defenses. 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. By joining together with Microsoft, we believe we can create much more resilient, intelligent and proactive defenses against hackers, viruses and other threats to computing and communications systems.

Is this collaboration a first for Cisco and Microsoft or have the companies worked together on other projects?

Jayshree Ullal: This is just the latest in a long list of collaborations between Cisco and Microsoft. We have and are continuing to work with Microsoft on a number of technology fronts and marketing segments. Most recently, the two companies joined together to develop better products and services for smaller businesses. Other areas we have worked on together include IP telephony, data centers, IPv6, home networking, and consumer media.

Bob Muglia: Cisco is one of our most valued partners, and this is just the next step in our history of security collaboration. For the past couple of years, we have been collaborating in areas such as quarantine, virtual private networks, wireless and protocols. This latest announcement demonstrates again that Cisco and Microsoft are committed to the security of our mutual customers.

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