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Microsoft Unveils Next-Generation Forefront Business Security Solutions


Microsoft today unveiled its next-generation Forefront business-security product, making Microsoft the first security products vendor to deliver unified protection, policy control, and security management with a single console. The Forefront solution, codenamed “Stirling,” is a single product that delivers unified security management and reporting with comprehensive, coordinated protection across an organization’s IT infrastructure.

Today’s announcement builds on Microsoft’s commitment in the market to provide integrated and comprehensive security products that protect and enable access and that are easy to manage and use. PressPass spoke with Margaret Arakawa, senior director of Security Product Marketing at Microsoft, about this milestone and how it fits into Microsoft’s broader strategy and commitments to customers.

PressPass: What is being announced today?

Arakawa: A year ago, we launched the Forefront brand of security products for business. We entered this market because customers were asking us to make security easier - easier to manage, easier to integrate, and easier to buy. This is why we remain focused on providing products that simplify the security and access experience, while maintaining comprehensive protection and integrating seamlessly with an organization’s IT infrastructure. During the year, we have delivered on our promise and by launching 10 new security and access products, which are now helping millions of users worldwide access the information they need, while protecting organizations from the latest threats.

Today, we are unveiling the next installment of our Forefront product roadmap, which takes our comprehensive, integrated and simplified approach to the next level. The key highlight of this roadmap is Forefront “Stirling,” a unified product that will provide comprehensive protection across client, server applications and network edge from a single management console. “Stirling” will be the first in the market to integrate full-featured security and access technologies in a single product. With one management console, “Stirling” enables IT managers to centrally set policy, configure, deploy and manage security within their IT environment. With “Stirling,” taking control of securing and managing an organization’s IT infrastructure becomes easier and more cost-effective.

“Stirling” will include the next-generation versions of Forefront Client Security, Server Security and Edge Security and Access solutions, plus a unified management console. Customers can obtain current versions of any of our products today and be assured of an easy upgrade path to “Stirling” from current products and licenses. We are really excited to work with customers on this product, and we’ve scheduled a limited beta, starting later this year.

PressPass: What are the customer pain points that this solution is looking to address?

Arakawa: Customers experience multiple pain points in trying to provide a secure and well-managed IT infrastructure for their companies. The security threat landscape keeps changing, with more frequent, targeted, and financially-motivated attacks. To combat the threat, customers have deployed a slew of different point products to help ward off the attacks. As a result IT professionals spend a significant amount of time jumping between security consoles and trying to manage multiple and complex models for defining security policy and managing protection technologies.

A lack of integrated protection among these products is another challenge. Most security solutions are not integrated well with each other, or have a common management interface, so it is difficult to monitor and protect the organization from emerging threats. Finally, most of today’s products don’t enable the visibility needed to analyze and have a clear understanding of the security state of the organization.

To address these challenges, “Stirling” brings comprehensive and integrated protection, unified management and critical visibility in a single product. By equipping customers with a single solution to help secure their environment and provide secure access, “Stirling” will radically simplify the task of securing IT environments.

PressPass: How is this different from what other security vendors are providing?

Arakawa: While there are many good security products in the market and a general trend toward the convergence of security and management, the reality is other vendors are not able to deliver the level of integration or unified protection, reporting, and visibility that Microsoft can. It is not easy to take disparate security technologies and management capabilities that sit in various parts of the infrastructure and the IT organization and unify them in an interconnected system of protection and management. Microsoft can do this because we have developed our Forefront portfolio with comprehensive protection and secure-access technologies across the infrastructure and have built Forefront on a common management and policy infrastructure.

There are also some unique ways “Stirling” works, based on how we have integrated these technologies. For example, “Stirling” acts as a distributed system, with the components working together, sharing information and dynamically responding to quickly protect the organization from complex threats. Protection technologies included in the “Stirling” solution can be set to dynamically respond to these threats through a variety of remediation techniques.

The single console is also a big difference, not only for its centralized functionality but because of the critical visibility it provides. In real time, IT managers can view insightful, prioritized reports and understand the overall security state of the organization.

Finally, “Stirling” builds on the incredible work Microsoft has been doing around access control, providing strong integration with Microsoft Network Access Protection (NAP), so administrators can control network access based on user and machine authorization as well as adherence to the company’s security policy for endpoint protection.

PressPass: How does this map to Microsoft’s security product strategy for enterprise customers?

Arakawa: The fundamental belief that drives enterprise security product development at Microsoft is that if we can make it easier for our customers to secure their environments, then they will become more secure and can free up IT resources to grow their business. To do this, we are committed to providing a comprehensive set of security solutions that integrate with existing infrastructure and simplify the task of deploying and managing IT security.

“Stirling” takes this strategy to the next level by combining our client, server and edge security solutions into one product with centralized management capabilities to provide greater control and critical visibility of security across the environment .

PressPass: It’s been a year since the Microsoft Forefront brand was announced. How would you evaluate Microsoft’s entry into the enterprise security product space?

Arakawa: This has been a truly momentous year for Microsoft security products in terms of product development, customer adoption, partner activation and industry recognition. While Forefront itself is a new brand, one of the underlying reasons behind the incredible momentum we are seeing in all four areas has been the strong foundation technologies on which today’s Forefront solutions are built. Forefront products benefit from going through Microsoft’s best-in-class security development lifecycle (SDL), which ensures we develop products securely from the ground up. We have also built our Forefront products on the strength of the Windows platform and a common management platform with our proven System Center management products. We also make sure we integrate easily with existing IT infrastructure, in particular Microsoft Windows, Active Directory, Exchange Server, and others.

We have also made strategic acquisitions to round out our development work. The fact that we were placed in the Leaders Quadrant of the Gartner E-mail Security Boundary Magic Quadrant was in part recognition of the excellent multi-engine antivirus technology we acquired from Sybari in 2005.

Similarly, our ranking as Leader in the Forrester Wave for SSL VPN appliances and positioning in the Visionaries Quadrant in the Gartner SSL VPN Magic Quadrant was largely thanks to the excellent technology we acquired with the Whale Communications acquisition earlier last year.

Forefront products have also received strong support from our partners and customers. We now have over 3000 partners in our Security Software Advisor (SSA) program, launched last summer, which is a further reflection of our partners’ belief in the technologies we are bringing to market and the demand they are seeing from customers for security solutions that are easier to use and manage. On the customer front, we have millions of users around the world using Forefront solutions for improved security and secure access to key network resources.

This strong technology and market foundation has enabled us to deliver on an ambitious product roadmap and puts us in good standing to maintain the momentum through the next fiscal year and beyond.

PressPass: What else can we expect to see from Microsoft to help businesses make their environments more secure?

Arakawa: We will continue to drive innovation aimed at simplifying the task of protecting and providing secure access. This key priority will shape the solutions we bring to market over the course of the next few years. To do this, we are driving deeper integration across the Forefront product set, with our System Center management solutions and across our customers’ existing IT infrastructure.

In the near term, the upcoming final release of Windows Server 2008 will unleash the full potential of Microsoft Network Access Protection (NAP), which is set to transform the way our customers enforce network access policy across their environment. When used with NAP, our security and access solutions will help customers realize our vision for secure anywhere access.

You can expect us to make further announcements over the course of the year around our next-generation products as well as our partner community and customers.

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