Gartner NAC Market Analysis Part 1

Is Gartner’s Magic Quadrant Really Magic?  NAC, NAC… Who’s there?

Well, once again, Gartner has released their annual analysis of the NAC market and every year I want to pull my hair out in frustration at the emptiness of the analysis.

You see, many organizations hold Gartner’s analysis in high regard – particularly at the higher levels of IT organizations.  In a lot of ways, the information in Gartner serves a very valuable purpose.  (I recall that Gartner used to caution that their analyses are tools that should be used as part of a deeper evaluation.  I can’t seem to find a link in their latest NAC report that provides such a caveat.)

Let’s take one very narrow section of Gartner’s latest report… the “Cautions” for Cisco ISE.  I will paraphrase their three “Cautions”:

1)     “the firmware on Cisco switches and wireless access points needs to be at recent levels”
(Did Gartner mention that, in some isolated cases, switches & APs can’t be upgraded to recent firmware?  Did Gartner mention the monumental resources, not to mention change management issues, that it usually takes to get networking equipment up to recent levels?

2)     “Cisco has two NAC agents…”
(Did Gartner deal with the complexities that arise out of deploying multiple agents or the even greater complexities of devices that can’t accept one of these agents?)

3)     “the overall cost of the ISE solution.”
(Whoaaaaa!!!!  What?!?  Cost is “objectionable”?  (Gartner’s term, not mine!)  This statement was referring to the references that Cisco provided Gartner for this research!  Oh!  And going back to #1 above, is Gartner aware of the cost of SMARTnet contracts to properly upgrade an enterprise of switches, APs, & controllers?)

Now the last time I checked, there are two very important things that every organization factors into their purchase decision…

1)     Capital cost & total cost of ownership.

2)     The anticipated impact on end-users and the impact on the IT organization.  Measures of these factors include ease-of-use/UX/transparency, FTEs to deploy, plus on-going support FTEs.

I was told recently by a 600 bed hospital that after rolling out ISE, they have ended up having to assign a full time person to manage NAC.  At the same time, I’m aware of a hospital system spread over a wide geographic area that has more than five times that many beds.  They support their NAC with roughly the same single FTE.

I’ve been working with another multinational corporation who has long had NAC in their strategic infrastructure plan.  When I started working with them, their master plan had them completing their network security access controls in late 2016.  Our newly updated schedule (using Forescout) has accelerated that completion date to early 2015.  We’ve essentially cut their timeline in half and the resources to complete the project by 80%.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be posting additional blogs with the goal of helping IT organizations make better use of Gartner’s “magic quadrant” analyses.  We’ll complete this series with some ideas about how Gartner could make drastic improvements in how their information can be useful to their customers as well as the IT community at large.

Stay tuned… or call with comments or questions (248) 608-0000.

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