Users who buy their NAC gear from Cisco are reluctant to give the company repeat business - even though it's the company most associated with the NAC concept.

That's according to a survey from Current Analysis which examines the current state of the NAC market. Current Analysis said that Cisco’s two NAC options, its infrastructure-based NAC and its appliance-based NAC, score 41 percent and 45 percent respectively when corporate NAC decision-makers who have not yet bought NAC were asked if they would consider Cisco, according to the latest Current Analysis annual NAC study.

But when customers who already had NAC installed were asked whether they would consider buying more gear from the same vendor - the retention scale - CA came out on top, with 81 percent saying they would.

When Cisco NAC appliance customers were asked if they would consider Cisco for more NAC gear, 67 percent of NAC appliance customers and 68 percent of infrastructure NAC customers said yes.

That indicates a certain amount of loyalty for NAC gear; once a business has a particular vendor’s NAC gear installed it is often much more likely to stick with that vendor.

For some vendors that is quite a dramatic difference. Bradford Networks, for example, would be considered by 1 percent of those polled who have not bought NAC gear. The number who would consider buying Bradford gear again after the initial purchase jumps to 78 percent, according to the study.

The Current Analysis research is based on 290 respondents tasked with making decisions about NAC, says Andrew Braunberg, the analyst who wrote the report. The survey was distributed from technology websites. About 45 percent of the respondents have already deployed NAC, he says.

Some might argue that Microsoft doesn’t belong on the list because it hasn’t shipped all the elements needed to deploy its network access protection scheme, Braunberg says. But it was included because so many respondents felt they derive NAC benefits from Microsoft products, he says.

Similarly, IBM and CA are listed but don’t market NAC products. That is because by piecing together some of their security products, their extensive professional services groups can deliver features that other vendors call NAC, he says.

Some NAC vendors - ConSentry, Lockdown, Mirage, Nevis, Senforce - didn’t make the lists at all. That is because more than 5 percent of respondents had to mention a vendor for that vendor to be included in the results, Braunberg says.

Some vendors do well on the attraction scale because of their wide marketing of their NAC technology. “The reason for Cisco’s attraction score is they’ve been banging the drum for NAC longer than anybody else,” he says. “It’s more of a popularity contest.”

Bradford is a much smaller company that used to target just colleges, so has little broad recognition by comparison, but it did quite well on the retention scale, Braunberg says.

The major barriers to deploying NAC are cost and complexity, the study says. The worries about how complex the deployments are centered on whether the NAC gear is compatible with hardware and software already deployed and what it takes to remedy any problems.

(Original reporting by Tim Green, Network World)