Cisco ISE vs ACS: Difference and Comparison

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.

Key Takeaways

  1. Cisco ISE is a newer, more advanced network access control solution than ACS.
  2. ISE offers more extensive integration capabilities with other network security tools than ACS.
  3. ACS is a more affordable option for small to medium-sized businesses than ISE.


ISE has context sharing with Eco-system, which is not available in ACS. ISE supports threat/ vulnerability/ posture scanning and enforcement, which ACS doesn’t. ISE supports AnyConnect posture, which ACS lacks. ACS doesn’t have an easy connection for passive authentication, but ISE has the same.


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 and 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

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.

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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 their 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 based 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,

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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 prerequisites 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 scalability than ACS. Its deployment limits are large in terms of number of endpoints supported. Indeed, it provides support to 3rd party devices, which the ACS system cannot do.
  4. ACS provides only 1 Active directory domain per node, while ISE provides up to 50 Active Directory Domains.
  5. ISE with NAC provides protection on devices using posture compliance, threat containment, and vulnerability assessment and protects the endpoints. ACS does not provide these services.

Last Updated : 26 July, 2023

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25 thoughts on “Cisco ISE vs ACS: Difference and Comparison”

  1. This article provides a comprehensive understanding of the differences between ACS and ISE, especially in terms of advanced security features and integration capabilities. Well presented.

  2. The comprehensive comparison and detailed insights into the features of ISE and ACS make it easier to assess the suitability of each solution for different organizational needs. Well-crafted analysis.

    • A thorough analysis of the differences between ACS and ISE, particularly in terms of advanced security features and integration capabilities. The comparison table offers clarity on the distinct advantages of ISE.

  3. The detailed information about the functionalities and potential of ISE compared to ACS is impressive. It’s evident that ISE offers a more comprehensive range of network security capabilities. Great insights provided.

    • The comparison table makes it easy to distinguish between ACS and ISE, and the advantages of ISE are clearly articulated. A highly informative article for those in the cybersecurity domain.

    • The article effectively highlights the limitations of ACS and the advanced features provided by ISE. A well-structured analysis of these security solutions.

  4. The comprehensive comparison between ACS and ISE, along with the detailed explanation of ISE’s advanced security features, provides a deep understanding of the benefits offered by ISE. Well explained.

    • The article provides a clear overview of the advanced functions and capabilities of ISE, making it a compelling option for organizations seeking robust network security solutions. Very well-written.

    • The focus on ISE’s extensive integration capabilities and advanced security measures is commendable. This article effectively highlights the competitive edge of ISE over ACS.

  5. The detailed comparison table provided is helpful in understanding the specific functionalities of ISE and ACS. It makes it easier to identify which solution would be a better fit for different organizational needs.

    • The information about ACS no longer being available in the market is crucial. Organizations using ACS need to consider migrating to ISE software, and this article highlighted the ease of migration.

    • Absolutely, having a clear breakdown of the features and functions of both ISE and ACS is crucial for making an informed decision when it comes to network security solutions.

  6. The breakdown of the features and comparison of functionalities between ACS and ISE is very informative. It clearly outlines the superior capabilities and integration support offered by ISE.

    • The advanced security features and support for multiple services make ISE a compelling choice for organizations looking to enhance their network security measures. Well presented.

    • The transparent comparison between ACS and ISE highlights the progressive advancements in network security. The focus on 3rd party support and enhanced security functions is impressive.

  7. The detailed comparison and focus on the advanced security measures and integration capabilities of ISE are essential for organizations assessing their network security needs. A valuable resource for decision-making.

    • The comprehensive information provided on ISE’s capabilities and advanced security services gives a clear indication of its advantages over ACS. A well-articulated analysis.

    • The article effectively outlines the advanced features offered by ISE and makes a compelling case for its superiority over ACS. A well-researched comparison.

  8. The detailed description of ISE’s capabilities in automating access control and integrating with 3rd party devices is enlightening. This article offers a valuable comparison between ACS and ISE.

    • I agree, the emphasis on the integration capabilities and advanced security services of ISE showcases the evolution in network security solutions. A comprehensive analysis provided in this article.

    • The clear distinction between ACS and ISE in terms of features and functionalities is valuable for organizations evaluating their security needs. The benefits of ISE are well-articulated.

  9. The in-depth explanation of the functionalities and benefits of ISE is impressive. This article provides a comprehensive understanding of how ISE streamlines network access control and enhances security.

    • The capability of ISE to automate access control and integrate with 3rd party devices is definitely a game-changer in the realm of network security. A well-articulated article.

  10. The comparison between ISE and ACS is really insightful. It’s clear that ISE has more advanced security features and capabilities. This article provided a clear understanding of the differences between the two.

    • I agree, ISE definitely seems to have more to offer compared to ACS. The integration capabilities and support for 3rd party devices are impressive.


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