Difference Between Cisco ISE and ACS (With Table)

ISE stands for Identity service Engine and ACS stands for Access Control server. ISE and ACS are both policy-based security servers provided by Cisco. ACS system has been used for since last many years although with the increasing need for technology security enterprises are looking for more features. And that’s where ISE comes in.

ISE vs ACS

The difference between ISE and ACS is that ACS just provides network access while ISE provides many other services. ACS system is off the market now. Replacements products are available in the market and many customers are migrating to ISE. ISE provides better features and performance. It is used to better secure the wireless environment.

Through ACS you can have control across the domain. It will boost visibility and you can access your policies for device administration. It contains authentication and provides flexibility. It uses several databases synchronously and has cohesive monitoring, reporting, and troubleshooting components.

ISE system is an advanced version which not only contains the competencies of the ACS system, it gives more advanced features. It has a more advanced security service. Indeed, it provides the suppleness of supporting 3rd party devices which ACS doesn’t. And ISE has both Radius and NAC server functions. Cisco ISE is the market-leading security program executive platform.

Comparison Table Between ACS and ISE

Parameters of ComparisonACSISE
Network Access, Device administration, context and VisibilityACS provides both network access and Device administration, but partial Context and no visibility.ISE provides all four things mentioned.
3rd party supportACS does not provide 3rd party support.ISE provides 3rd party support and the latest support of using SNMP.
FunctionsHas Radius functionsHas both radius and NAC functions.
Active Directory Domains1 active directory domain per node.50 active directory domains per node.
Threat/ Vulnerability/ postureDoesn’t provide any of these. Provides all these.

What is ACS?

ACS is a secure server that works with wireless network authentication. It provides authentication, authorization, and Accounting services for networks that are NAC enabled. With this system, you have more power to access policies that includes validation. It simplifies administrative management and defines compliant policy rules in an easy-to-use web-based GUI for the wireless network. It monitors event log management and includes Integrating Monitoring, Change Audit, Cloud Integration, Event Correlation, writeable media monitoring, reporting, and troubleshooting components.

It allows you to monitor the operations, Compliance, and security. ACS receives support for two distinctive protocols, one is RADIUS for network access control through which you will have control over who can connect with your network and another one is TACACS+ for network device access control which will allow a remote access server.

ACS is a highly secure network access control and network device administration. However, with increasing threats within the enterprises and its security more features were needed. Indeed, the Cisco ACS is no longer available in the market. It hasn’t been sold since August 30, 2017. The services are provided through ISE. Users who have ACS with device administration deployments can migrate to ISE software very easily as Cisco ISE comes with a tool to help customers migrate from Cisco Secure ACS. It is easy and cost-efficient as well.

What is ISE?

ISE is an advanced version of ACS with not only the features of ACS but also much more advanced security, capabilities, and performances. ISE automates access control to implement role bases access to an organization’s networks. The user doesn’t need to be connected to a wired network, a wireless network, or a VPN for it. It provides secure access to network resources and provides access to appropriate data along with sharing essential data to hasten their ability to identify and rectify threats.

Additionally, ISE allows 3rd party devices. It includes TACACS+-based network device administration features. It also facilitates multiple services on a single node. It provides a single platform where authentication, authorization, posture assessment, guest management services, administering services, and profiling policies can be created, simplified, and controlled. It also provides support for the discovery and monitoring of endpoint devices on the network.

ISE profiles a device to see if it truly meets the pre-requisites to be on a certain VLAN network. It even confines web portals for wired/wireless guest access. ISE is tightly integrated with DNAC and provides Anyconnect deployment from ISE and integrations. Also, have access to EasyConnect for passive authentication. It is used for the propagation of tags using SXP. Indeed, it offers control plan security as well.

Main Differences Between ACS and ISE

  1. ACS and ISE are both security servers policy based. ISE is more advanced than ACS. ISE provides integration with Anyconnect for posture and deployment. It provides a Control plan security, Context sharing with Eco-system and visibility which ACS doesn’t provide.
  2. ACS has the RADIUS functions while ISE has RADIUS functions as well as NAC functions.
  3. ISE provides more scalibilty than ACS. Its deployment limits are large in terms of number of endpoints supported. Indeed, it provides support to 3rd party devices which ACS system cannot do.
  4. ACS provides only 1 Active directory domain per node while ISE provides upto 50 Active Directory Domains.
  5. ISE with NAC provides protection on devices using posture compliance, threat containment, vulnerability assessment and protects the endpoints. ACS does not provide these services.

Conclusion

ACS and ISE are both security servers but ACS is not used nowadays. It is a highly secure network access control that was used for over 15 years. Now, it’s off the market. It has not been sold since August 2017. ISE is an enhanced and advanced version that provides much better features and performance.

ISE is a better option than ACS and Users who use ACS can migrate to ISE easily. ISE provides network access, device administration with 3rd party support. It provides context sharing with the ecosystem. network segmentation, Integration with DNAC, Control plan security, Anyconnect Posture, Visibility, and Context.

References

  1. http://repository.ntt.edu.vn/jspui/handle/298300331/3257
  2. https://www.recercat.cat/handle/2072/355498

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