Difference Between Cisco ISE and ACS

Difference Between Cisco ISE and ACS

Cisco ISE is an identity management platform that allows you to control access to networks, devices, apps, and services. Cisco ISE provides a single point of authentication and authorization for your whole network.

Cisco ACS is a comprehensive security solution that provides everything you need to manage all aspects of network access within your enterprise centrally.

The table below summarizes the features offered by Cisco ISE versus Cisco ACS.

Cisco ISE Vs. Cisco ACS

Cisco ISE and ACS are two different products with similar functions. Cisco ISE is access management and identity management solution for the network. It helps secure network resources with a centralized policy framework and powerful application programming interfaces (APIs).

Cisco ACS is also mainly designed to secure the network through authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA) services. It can provide AAA services for multiple platforms such as Microsoft Active Directory (AD), Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), RADIUS, IBM Tivoli Common Authentication Services(TCAS), HP OpenView RADIUS, Sun ONE, or Novell Netware Directory Services (NDS).

We can see that both Cisco ISE and Cisco ACS have some similarities as they are designed to provide some of the same functions on a network.

Cisco ISE and ACS are two management systems for the Cisco network which can manage network security.

However, Cisco ISE is more of an enterprise-grade solution than ACS. If you are managing 100+ devices, then Cisco ISE is the go-to option.

Cisco ISE comes loaded with additional features that help to secure networking devices at the edge of the corporate network.

ACS is the traditional Cisco solution that provides management of both wired and wireless networks. It is the only Cisco product that supports the full range of site-to-site VPNs, including IPsec, GRE, L2TP, and SSL VPN.

ISE is a newer product from Cisco which provides centralized management for wired and wireless networks.

ISE can also be set up as a network access device providing authentication for all people accessing the network. It can be set up as an NPS server to authenticate users connecting to ISE through the 802.1X protocol without having to use ACS.

The most significant differentiator between ISE and ACS is that ISE supports 802.1X with no additional configuration required by setting up an NPS server on it, whereas ACS does not.

What is Cisco ACS?

Cisco ACS is a network security service that provides identity-based access control, user authentication, and related services for an enterprise.

Cisco ACS is a network security service that provides identity-based access control, user authentication, and related services for an enterprise. This solution helps to enforce the corporate security policy while providing secure remote access to employees from home or other locations. Cisco ACS can provide centralized management of all encrypted traffic from the point of origin to the destination and offers protection for data in motion.

There are many reasons why Cisco ACS is needed. It’s the only way to configure, manage, and monitor all of your network devices. It also allows you to set up enterprise-wide authentication schemes that are consistent with your security policies. You can also make use of it to create flexible access lists that can control device access.

Cisco ACS provides authentication, authorization, and accounting for network devices such as PCs, Macs, printers, and servers. It contains the Cisco Secure ACS appliance and Cisco Secure ACS Server software. Cisco Secure ACS Server can be installed on a Windows NT 4.0 or later operating system on an x86-based server.

What is Cisco ISE?

Cisco Identity Service Engine is a product that provides identity management, authentication, authorization, and accounting services.

Cisco ISE can be deployed as a virtualized application with the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) B200 M4 server, or it can be deployed on Cisco Catalyst 6500 series switches. It is designed to work with the Cisco Cloud Services Router 1000V.

The Cisco ISE provides comprehensive identity resolution for wired, wireless, VPN, and web-based user access to any network resource in your organization.

It enables secure guest access for wireless networks by combining authentication methods such as IEEE 802.1X EAP-TLS or PEAP-TLS with h2 encryption mechanisms such as 3DES/AES128.

ISE is Cisco’s Identity Service Engine, an identity-driven policy engine. The ISE provides authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA) services to enterprise networks, including both wired and wireless LANs. It uses PKI certificates for authentication and utilizes RADIUS for its AAA services.

ISE is capable of managing users with various levels of access control privileges. For example, if a user is accessing the network from outside of it, they can be restricted to only accessing resources on the public website unless they are given permission otherwise by an administrator who has configured exceptions on the allowed resources list or another automated process.

Difference Between Cisco ISE and Cisco ACS

  • Cisco ACS supports network access and device administration but doesn’t support visibility and only partial support context, while Cisco ISE supports everything.
  • Cisco ACS doesn’t provide 3rd party support, while Cisco ISE provides 3rd party support.
  • Cisco ACS includes radius functions while Cisco ISEincludes both radius functions and NAC functions.
  • Cisco ACS supports one active directory domain per node while Cisco ISEsupports 50 active directory domains per node.
  • Cisco ACS doesn’t support threat, vulnerability, or posture, while Cisco ISE supports all of these.


Cisco ISE and ACS are Cisco flagship products.

Cisco ISE is a network access control solution that helps organizations secure their networks and devices. It also simplifies the management of the network infrastructure, helping to improve operational efficiencies and reduce costs. At its core, Cisco ISE is a highly scalable policy decision point that is capable of dynamically adapting to changes in an organization’s network environment.

Cisco ACS provides many of the same features and benefits as Cisco ISE, but it also offers advanced capabilities such as authentication services with RADIUS or TACACS+, Clientless SSL VPN, and LDAP integration for enterprises requiring Active Directory support.

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