Microsoft: Forefront Gaining Steam In Channel

to support its Forefront security product line

More than 1,100 partners have joined Security Solutions competency since Microsoft unveiled it last July at its Worldwide Partner Conference, making it the fastest growing of Microsoft's 13 competencies, says Mark Hassall, marketing director for security and access partners at Microsoft.

"We think the Security Solutions competency helps partners show off their expertise and build deeper relationships, not only to cover security, but also the entire network infrastructure," said Hassall.

Hassall also revealed that Stirling, the code name for the next generation of Forefront, will go into beta in the first half of the year. Stirling, a single solution that spans client, servers, and network edge, provides better visibility into the security state of the environment and features a single management console, Hassall said.

Walt Henderson, president of Virteva, a St. Louis Park, Minn.-based solution provider, says that while the server side part of Forefront which ties into Exchange and instant messaging has been making progress, Microsoft faces a tougher battle on the client side, where entrenched antivirus foes like Symantec and McAfee reign supreme.

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Still, Henderson says Stirling's integration of management and security across the enterprise is going to be the turning point for Forefront adoption, because "that's where competitors' solutions fall short."

"Forefront Stirling's total integration and manageability will optimize management costs, and that's where the total cost of ownership will start to become a factor for many enterprises," said Henderson.

This week, Microsoft also expanded its Security Software Advisor (SSA) program to allow more partners to take part. The SSA program, whose membership has grown from 4,000 to 6,000 since the WPC, rewards partners that influence the sale and deployment of Microsoft security solutions, but don't sell the actual licenses.

The SSA program helps VARs and integrators grow revenue by collecting advisory fees of up to 30 percent for recommending security solutions and offering deployment advice to customers, according to Hassall.

Partners can receive an additional 10 percent off if they're enrolled in the Network Infrastructure or Advanced Infrastructure competencies, or the Information Worker competency's Portals and Collaboration specialization, Hassall added.

"These fees are in addition to the margin partners would make in selling the product themselves. This allows partners to earn supplemental revenue and maximize each opportunity," Hassall said.

Microsoft this week also announced that customers that renew or sign new volume licensing agreements will receive a 25 percent discount on Forefront Client Security per-user and per-device monthly subscriptions and Forefront Client Security Management Console monthly subscriptions.

The discount program, which runs from Feb. 1 to July 28, also offers volume licensing customers 35 percent off the list price of monthly subscriptions for Forefront Client Security together with standalone System Center Configuration Manager 2007 server licenses or standalone Systems Management Server 2003 server licenses.