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Vernier Networks quietly changes name, approach

One analyst says Vernier Networks' decision to re-launch as Autonomic Networks could be in response to slower-than-expected growth in the NAC sector.

Network access control (NAC) vendor Vernier Networks is quietly re-launching itself under a new name and approach.

The powers that be at Vernier seem to be concluding there's not as much money to be had in the NAC space so they're changing things up.
Paul Roberts,
senior analystThe 451 Group

The company has confirmed the name change to Autonomic Networks but won't reveal details about its new direction until the official re-launch is announced sometime in the first quarter of 2008.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company, founded in March 2001 and known for its EdgeWall family of NAC appliances, makes no mention of the name change on the Vernier Web site. But a Web site for Autonomic Networks has been launched, listing the same 490 E. Middlefield Road mailing address. Meanwhile, the new name is now used in the company's recorded voicemail greeting.

On the new Web site, Autonomic Networks gives itself the vague description of a specialist in "individually virtualized infrastructure -- enhancing security and compliance while enabling business flexibility."

Until the re-launch is official, customers can expect business as usual from Vernier, according to a company spokesman who declined to be named because he has not been authorized to discuss the matter.

"We're still getting our ducks in a row," the spokesman said, adding that the company's 1,100-plus customers are being informed of the changes ahead. Customers include Adobe, Hitachi, Honda, NASA, McGraw Hill, Korea Telecom, UC Berkeley and Texas A&M.

NAC in the news:
NAC switches, appliances help track users, malware: Some vendors are offering switches and appliances to monitor traffic for malware and unauthorized access, as the NAC market including Cisco NAC and Microsoft NAP sorts itself out.

NAC growth sluggish as companies consider network security options: Companies are taking a wait-and-see approach, hoping the technology's maturity will make it more cost effective.

Paul Roberts, a senior analyst with The 451 Group, said Vernier may be changing direction because the NAC market hasn't generated the interest vendors had initially expected. For many enterprises, NAC is considered too complicated and expensive, and IT professionals have found ways to bolster access control using the technology they already have instead of investing in new NAC products, he added.

"They are clearly undergoing a major transition," Roberts said. "The powers that be at Vernier seem to be concluding there's not as much money to be had in the NAC space so they're changing things up."

The NAC space has indeed become crowded in the last two years. Cisco Systems has devoted a lot of time and money toward promoting its NAC appliance, and Vernier has also been competing with such companies as Juniper Networks, ConSentry Networks and Nevis Networks. Roberts said the market is also crowded with out-of-band appliance vendors such as ForeScout Technologies, Lockdown Networks and Mirage Networks. Leading anti-malware vendors like Sophos, McAfee, StillSecure and Symantec are in the NAC business as well, and, Roberts noted, Microsoft will be a huge NAC player once its Longhorn Server starts appearing in the enterprise.

At the same time, demand for NAC products has failed to reach previously anticipated levels because of the cost and complexity.

"At the outset, it seemed like a slam dunk, that this would be something everyone wanted," Roberts said. "The main reason that hasn't necessarily been the case is that there have been a lot of different ways you could do access control. Companies find it's a problem they want to address, but it's not killing them enough to spend money on new NAC products."

It is puzzling that Vernier is attempting to re-launch in such a stealthy way, Roberts said. He suspects it's because the company wants to do this in dramatic fashion. Or, he said, it could be that specifics are still being fleshed out and the company simply doesn't have answers regarding such matters as personnel changes.

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