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Security vendors ally to build open-source NAC client

Six vendors are joining forces to develop an open source client for 802.1x authentication process. Called a supplicant, the lightweight application is designed to reside on non-PC devices such as PDAs, MP3 players, storage devices and other hardware that’s easy to connect to a network, but hard for a security system to authenticate.

An 802.1x supplicant authenticates a network device before it receives an IP address, which helps prevent unauthorized machines from launching attacks. Most businesses do not use any authentication now, said Brian Smith, TippingPoint’s chief architect.

Symantec, TippingPoint, Trapeze Networks, Extreme Networks, Identity Engines and Infoblox announced today that they have formed the Open Secure Edge Access Alliance. Founder Jon Oltsik, a senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, and other group members say their product will help spread 802.1x technology and make their customers safer.

Microsoft built support for 802.1x authentication into Windows XP, but machines that run other operating systems must rely on third-party supplicants, usually sold by Cisco and Juniper. And the vendors in the OpenSEA Alliance view those two companies as competitors.

“It would be weird for someone like TippingPoint to go to Cisco and say, ‘Can we resell your supplicant?’” Smith said.

The alliance’s open source supplicant will allow its member vendors to provide their own solutions, Smith said. He also believes that the backing of six vendors will help some customers get over their reluctance to use open source security products.

There is no timeline for when the supplicant will be available, but the OpenSEA Alliance plans to make a demo available at Interop Las Vegas later this month, Oltsik said.

We’ll have a full story tomorrow, with more information on the alliance and how its supplicant will affect the channel.

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