We just raised a $30M Series A: Read our story

Comparison of Aruba Clearpass, Bradford Networks and Forescout NACs


I need to acquire a NAC for our network. We have Wired LAN & (WLAN) Wireless APs at Head Office and branch offices in different places. I need to manage all of these branch offices centrally from HQ. Please advise of the best NAC Solution I can acquire.


ITCS user
22 Answers

author avatar
Real User

Thank for your nice works. I am working on the similar type comparison between Fortescout, FortiNAC(Bradford) and ISE for a project in a healthcare organization.

author avatar

Hi Nkwa,

I did some research comparing ForeScout with ClearPass.
Fundamentally they do the same but in a very different ways. It is important to understand these differences and how they could help you to achieve or not what you need in your organization. I will only point these differences and not every single detail. This is based on my own experience and I do not represent either ForeScout or Aruba ClearPass.

• NetFlow or SFlow: ForeScout do not support Sflow only NetFlow. Is this important? Yes, it is if your switches are not Cisco or any other vendor that support the NetFlow protocol.

ForeScout says: "This capability becomes more relevant in large scale deployments, where the CounterACT packet engine is limited in its "ability to detect activity in remote sites and branch offices". Use of information reported by NetFlow improves visibility and speeds detection of new endpoints." Reference: https:\www.forescout.com\wp-content\uploads\2018\04\CounterACT_NetFlow_1.2.pdf Page 3.

NetFlow V5/V9 and V10 aka IPFIX + sFLOW are supported.
Reference: https://www.arubanetworks.com/techdocs/ClearPass/CP_ReleaseNotes_6.6.3/Content/WhatsNew/NewFeatures_ProfilerNWDiscovery.htm

ORCHESTRATE = Integration/Collaboration with other Systems.

* ForeScout
is able to interchange contextual information with 3rd party solutions, however the most of the contextual collaboration capabilities are available using an Extended Module option and ForeScout charges separately for this.
Reference Links:

Clear Pass:
* 140+ Integrations are included as part of the core solution. Basically, you can integrate ClearPass to anything in your IT infrastructure at no extra cost to share contextual information. Firewalls, MDM, TicketSystem, SIEM, etc.. Using build-in Modules or APIs. You can request as well customized APIs.
Reference Link https://www.arubanetworks.com/partners/programs/security-exchange/
Reference Link https://www.arubanetworks.com/assets/so/SO_ClearPassExchange.pdf

Basically, an agent based solution needs a software installed, while an agentless approach don't.
Independently of what NAC solution you will use, it is important to understand if you need or not an agent.

When a device connects to a network, the agent software performs some actions that have been defined in a central access controller or policy management platform. If persistent, the agent performs auto-remediation functions during a connection and will permanently monitor the device throughout a session to “fix” things that may change.
The dissolvable agent: a user clicks on a web portal link to download the agent, which authenticates the user and device, checks the endpoint for compliance, and allows access to the network if policy conditions are met. It then disappears until the user runs it again.

ForeScout is proud to claim that they don’t require an agent (agentless approach NAC) but this is not completely true. ForeScout needs a “dissolvable agent” for authorization & compliance of unmanaged assets e.g. Employee BYOD, Contractor Laptops, printers, CCTV cameras, Smart TVs, etc. Agentless is fine when all your devices are Windows and all of them are under your management. For none windows devices you will need the dissolvable agent to perform health check and remediation.
Based on this explanation having an agent or not is irrelevant for most of the cases. there many identities sources from where you can extract contextual information to help the NAC to do his work, examples are: AD, Wireless AP, End-Point protection software, SCCM, MDM, the Switches, the Firewall, etc...
To do this you need integration, this is possible with ForeScout using the extended module /Plugins and normally paying the extra cost.
Reference Link: https://www.forescout.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Agentless-Visibility-and-Control-ForeScout-White-Paper.pdf

Clear pass can run with an agent and without the agent. It hast the persistence option, the dissolvable option for BYOD and Guest devices. It can be easily integrated to the mentioned identity stores at no extra cost.



Here is one of the major differences. Both support Radius authentication. ClearPass see it like the most secure way to protect your network and ForeScout see it like something complex that you should try to avoid if possible, in my opinion.


* says: 802.1X presents several deployments, operational and troubleshooting challenges, particularly on wired networks.
* To perform RADIUS-based network authentication you need a “Plugin” to forward the authentication requests to an external authentication Sever, like the Microsoft NPS. Page 10, Reference link , you will need as well a Switch Plugin for wired network RADIUS-based deployment and a Wireless plugin for wireless network RADIUS-based deployment. All this sounds like a complexity to me.

* By not having 802.1x configured you save also configuring all switches on your network. Which is not a big problem because you do this once during the useful life of the switch.

* Not build-in TACACS+ - centralized remote authentication to network devices like switches, routers, etc.
Reference Link:

* Is build-in CA and if you like you can use an external CA as well.
* Centralizing the radius authentication make the administration and configuration very easy because you don’t have to manage the NAC and the CA separated.
* No plugin is needed for non-802.1x Auth and non-domain joined devices. In this case you can enforce machine authentication and many other security layers to allow non-domain devices to safely connect without a certificate.
* non-domain devices can automatically or manually be provisioned using a guest network and dissolvable agent.
* Integration with the Aruba Wireless system for Radius Authentication is very easy (if you own an Aruba Wireless Infrastructure) and no extra cost.

You must configure your switches to work with 802.1x. This can be easily done using a template on HPE IMC.
• Build in TACACS+


ForeScout: preferred method is: I let you in then I find out who you are.

• ForeScout CounterACT propose the Post-connect deployment strategy for network visibility and access control in which endpoints are initially allowed access to the network while CounterACT profiles them to determine ownership and compliance. Access to the network is then adjusted based on profiling results and security policy.
Reference link: https://www.forescout.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/CounterACT-Deployment-Guide-Wired-Post-Connect.pdf

This makes sense on new deployments because the NAC can be configured transparent to the end user with no dramatic impact. My question is: What is the process after deployment? Do I let you in then I find a good policy for you?

ClearPass: preferred method is: I let you in if you tell me something about you. Then depending on the roles/policies this unknown device will be moved to a quarantine VLAN for remediation or moved to a dead end VLAN. At the same time this will trigger a ticket to helpdesk and a message to the user to know what is happening and what is the next step.


• The references are very good everywhere you read in internet. Also, the expertise of their engineers. You can browse a little and it won't be hard to find references.
Online support, documentation, communities (forescout Chatter), etc.

The references are very good everywhere you read in internet. Also, the expertise of their engineers. You can browse anywhere on internet and it won't be hard to find references.
Online support, documentation, communities (aruba airheads), etc.

This will depend on many factors. I would suggest that you consult both and make your own decision.

Find out what your peers are saying about Cisco, ForeScout, Aruba Networks and others in Network Access Control (NAC). Updated: September 2021.
540,884 professionals have used our research since 2012.