Cisco and Microsoft urged to provide road map for security collaboration

Cisco and Microsoft's recent partnership to make their scan-and-block network security systems interoperable, marks an important enhancement for enterprise networks, according to Gartner.

A recent advisory by Gartner analysts Lawrence Orans, Mark Nicolett and John Pescatore concluded that the computing giant's decision to work will simplify enterprise scan-and-block implementations, thereby improving protection against worms and other attacks.

However, enterprises should look beyond the "promising" co-operation announcement and demand more details. "Neither company has announced a time frame or a road map, which is a cause for concern. To convince their customers that they are serious, Cisco and Microsoft need to make implementation details public by 1Q05, or 2Q05 at the latest," the advisory stated.

According to the report, these details should include plans for the use of industry-standard protocols to avoid a proprietary approach that locks customers into Cisco hardware or Microsoft software.

"If Microsoft and Cisco don't move quickly on these issues, customers should look to other vendors for scan-and-block capabilities, such as those proposed by vendors that are part of the Trusted Computing Group's Trusted Network Connect initiative," Gartner predicted.

However, the analyst group believes that, if Cisco and Microsoft demonstrate real development of open, interoperable solutions, their joint customers will benefit significantly in the long term, since their strategic product families will include built-in, interoperable scan-and-block functions.

Before the collaboration announcement, Gartner advised implementing scan-and-block technology immediately and not wait for Cisco and Microsoft to complete their road maps. The analyst said this advice still holds as Cisco and Microsoft still have "substantial work to do" to advance their own scan-and-block solutions. In the meantime, security managers are advised to look to the growing field of vendors that offer independent scan-and-block products, including Sygate, InfoExpress and Check Point Software Technologies.

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