Its trip to market relies on the launch of Microsoft Server (Longhorn) and Windows Vista, which may significantly affect the timing, but an announcement from Cisco and Microsoft that they are ramping up to a beta of a NAC and NAP interoperability offering has been anticipated for some time.
The very small planned beta, which is set to begin before the end of the year, will see customers testing an architecture that combines Cisco Secure Access Control Server and Microsoft Network Policy server with client-side network access protection for a self-defending network.
Forrester Research has found that amid strong interest in NAC is trepidation over committing to the complexity and cost. Microsoft/Cisco interoperability addresses the former (well, after Vista, anyway) but doesn't do much about the latter.
An analyst quoted in an InformationWeek article says that this partnership should prompt IT shops toward NAC implementation to add a long list of questions for third-party vendors about how they'll address the new product, once it's released.
The partners said it's taken over two years to get to this point because of corporate (not techical) challenges -- a common explanation that tries to deflect attention from technical questions that might not quite have answers yet.