Microsoft's unified Forefront security platform, dubbed "Stirling," will be a fully integrated product, not just a simple bundle or suite, a key company executive said.
At TechEd 2007 in Orlando, Fla., Microsoft server and tools chief Bob Muglia told CRN that the integration of the Forefront client, security and network-edge products and Web-based management console will give Microsoft a major advantage over its competitors.
Microsoft announced plans for Stirling at Tech Ed on Monday, just days after it started shipping its long awaited Forefront Client Security product. Also at the event, the Redmond, Wash., software giant launched a beta 2 version of the Forefront Server Security Management Console, the Web-based interface for remote and on-site management of the server product.
Microsoft currently sells a suite of Forefront products, to which its new client security will be added, but Stirling will seamlessly integrate client, server and network-edge security on one offering.
"It's a product, not a bundle," said Muglia, senior vice president of servers and tools at Microsoft.
Partners say customers in the small- and midsize-business space will be interested in a single platform because of the proliferation of malware, antivirus, antispam and network security products in the market.
"We are excited to see some formulation around the offering, with it becoming a single product vs. a mash-up," said Stephen Moss, COO of NSPI, a security solution provider in Roswell, Ga. "This will enable more opportunities to sell to the SMB market."
Steve Brown, director of product management in Microsoft's security and access division, said there will be deep integration across all products and a single management control interface that will allow IT administrators and VARs to set policies, configure, deploy and manage.
That will allow for "dynamic protection," in which systems can be preprogrammed to defend against unexpected intrusions or events, Brown added. For example, Stirling can dynamically respond to threats through various remediation techniques, he said.
ISVs at TechEd, however, expressed different points of view of about Stirling, which was announced but not demonstrated at Tech Ed 2007.
"Smart move," said Gil Kirkpatrick, chief technical officer at Netpro, a Phoenix-based security and compliance ISV. "The individual components of Forefront are generally competing directly against entrenched products from third-party vendors, so bundling the components, leveraging the common look and feel, and simplifying the management and licensing provides a great value for customers."
But Mark Shavlik, president and CEO of Shavlik Technologies, a Roseville, Minn.-based network security software firm, predicted that it will take Microsoft several years to tie together all the Forefront products in a seamless fashion.
"This will make setup and ongoing usage very complicated at a time when the [IT security] markets are seeking simplification," Shavlik said. "It will take Microsoft years to get beyond this complication."