Intel Links Up with Lockdowns NAC Enforcer

The chip maker is investing $3.1 million in Lockdown Networks' access control products, and plans integration with its own Active Management Technology.

Chip maker Intels investment arm is putting $3.1 million into Lockdown Networks, a maker of network access control software, and plans to form a strategic partnership with the company.

Intel Capital plans to announce a strategic joint initiative with Seattle-based Lockdown on March 6 that includes a plan to integrate Lockdowns Enforcer product with Intels Active Management Technology, which allows companies to survey and correct security flaws across their networks.

The deal will help build a platform for using AMT to enforce network policy on Intel-based machines, according to Chris Lawless, senior investment manager at Intel Capital, in Santa Clara, Calif.

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Intels investment is designed to encourage the AMT technology, and to make a good return on investment, Lawless said.

Lockdown makes hardware appliances for network access control. The products can evaluate security settings on client machines, such as operating system patch level, and look for up-to-date anti-virus software and other security applications.

Intels AMT is hardware-based technology that allows companies to remotely manage and troubleshoot computers. For example, administrators can track computers and update software and firmware even if the machine is not turned on, Lawless said.

The technology works regardless of the operating system that is running on the system. Future releases of AMT will have security features, such as the ability to monitor the kinds of security settings and state information that are currently monitored using software clients, Lawless said.

Lockdowns technology will provide a network-based system for managing data on AMT-enabled machines, he said.

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"AMT should be able to report the state of machine and provide a set of information or data that will allow Lockdowns NAC [technology] to make what we hope are much more granular decisions about the platform," Lawless said.

AMT gives Lockdown more enforcement options in complex networks than the current approach, which relies on switches and virtual LANs to isolate machines that fail NAC security checks, said Brett Helsel, CEO of Lockdown.

"If we can talk directly to the client and make the switching decision there, and get cooperation from the device to do the interrogation, even when its not powered on, that gives us more options for enforcement," he said.

Lockdown plans to build support for AMT into the next release of its NAC platform, due in spring of 2006, Helsel said. The company will use part of the $3 million investment to integrate AMT and the Enforcer technology, he said.

Intels investment could be a sign of more things to come in the nascent NAC space, said Jon Oltsik of analyst firm Enterprise Strategy Group, based in Milford, Mass.

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"This could certainly evolve to be an important component around network access control," Oltsik said, adding that Lockdown and Intel could expand the reach of NAC technology beyond the PC-to-LAN connection, where most enforcement is currently done.

Most of the benefits of the Intel-Lockdown partnership are in the future, however.

Updates to Intels AMT that will allow NAC checks are not due until later in 2006. After that, the technology will have to slowly work its way into enterprise environments as companies upgrade their hardware, before companies like Lockdown can leverage it for security checks, Helsel said.

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