At this week’s TechEd 2006 conference, Microsoft announced plans to consolidate its enterprise security options under a single name: Forefront. The name is no doubt designed to signal Microsoft’s renewed commitment to security, and the product line will provide security from client desktops to the network edge. While Microsoft is touting the new brand, not all of the pieces will be immediately available. The announcement at least shows Microsoft’s ambitions to become a complete player in the enterprise security space, and the vision is more comprehensive than the one the company was pitching last year.
Starting July 1, the company will offer the updated Antigen line (Antigen for Instant Messaging, …for SMTP Gateways, …for Exchange, …for SharePoint, and …Spam Manager) to its corporate clients looking for a server-based malware protection suite. Most Antigen products will maintain their current name, though versions for SMTP Gateways and SharePoint will be rebranded under the Forefront moniker within the next year. The new Antigen products were developed with technology from Sybari, a smaller security company acquired last year by Microsoft. Microsoft touts Antigen’s ability to use multiple scanning engines as a key selling point, though the software now offers a home-grown antivirus engine as well.
The creamy white filling in Microsoft’s security Oreo is in place, but the crunchy black cookies aren’t ready for primetime, and won’t be until sometime in 2007. Microsoft’s security roadmap shows that desktop protection will be offered by something called Forefront Client Security, which will be a different animal from the company’s consumer-oriented security offerings like Windows Defender. Though it will it incorporate technology from the consumer products, Forefront Client Security is supposed to feature the robust administration, configuration, and reporting tools necessary in an enterprise environment.
For the edge of the network, Microsoft is prepping an update to its Internet Security and Acceleration Server, but the product won’t be ready until the second half of 2007. ISA Server will continue to function as both a gateway for small businesses and branch offices, and it will also enable secure, remote access to corporate data and applications.
In the last two years, Microsoft has made a number of interesting moves in the security space, and it looks as though the acquisitions and internal development have finally resulted in a cohesive roadmap for the company’s enterprise products. Whether the revamped line will shoot to the “forefront” of IT managers’ buying lists remains to be seen, but other security vendors have at least a full year to hawk their own wares before Microsoft’s Forefront products will provide an end-to-end corporate solution.