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Cisco: Networking Is Hot Again

LAS VEGAS -- While the economy may be cool, the world of networking is anything but, according to Marie Hattar, VP of Network Systems and Security Solutions for Cisco. There are a lot of reasons why Hattar is so upbeat including new product initiatives, compliance drivers and overall customer sentiment.

Since Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) is an important bell weather for the technology industry as a whole, what Cisco sees as the current and future state of the networking business has wide implications.

As a simple proof point of the renewed interest in networking Hattar who spoke to InternetNews.com at the Interop trade show, cited the enthusiasm of Interop .

"Despite the split personality of Interop this year we're excited because we're seeing so many customers," Hattar said. (Interop added a separate software conference to the event). "A few years ago all we'd see was vendors."

Hattar's area of responsibility includes routing and switching as well as security. Under her auspices lies the big area of Cisco's Self Defending Network portfolio of which Network Access Control (NAC) is a constituent.

"We see NAC as something that crosses between network security and endpoint security and we do see it as an area of growth," Hattar said.

Hattar noted there has been a lot of hype about NAC and it's taken longer for the technology to prove itself in terms of deployments than some might have expected.

A trough of disillusionment

"What happened with NAC is it went through great hype and then it went through the trough of disillusionment," Hattar said. "I think now what you're seeing are customers getting to the steady state of deploying it into their networks."

Hattar also was quick to point out that security is much more than the concept of admission control. Cisco's broader vision involves its new Trustsec initiative which was announced at the end of 2007.

"Trustsec secures things across the LAN and brings policy, identity and ties it all together so you have a whole trusted security entity," Hattar explained. "That to me is a more interesting topic than just purely 'knock knock who is there?' That doesn't necessarily protect your overall network."

While NAC has perhaps been a driver for networking, there is no question that the PCI compliance requirements have also been a boost.

"Many enterprises deploy security products to deal with compliance issue so PCI has been huge as a driver to put security into the network," Hattar said. "But just because you're PCI compliant doesn't mean you have a secure network."