Shipped to coincide with the release of the long-awaited update to Microsofts Exchange Server 2007 e-mail and collaboration platform, the Forefront Security package aims to help companies better protect their critical information and control access to their underlying IT infrastructure.
Built on technologies acquired by Microsoft through its February 2005 buyout of Sybari, an anti-virus specialist, the Forefront tools are designed to protect the server software from viruses, spam and worms. At the heart of the product is Sybaris Antigen for Exchange application, which compiles threat-related data from nine different anti-virus scanning engines, sourced from leading security software makers, and aggregates the data into a single interface.
The product also includes the Microsoft Antivirus engine, the companys first attempt to build its own anti-malware technology.
In addition to providing layered protection against IT attacks and spam, Microsoft said the Forefront package offers businesses a comprehensive set of performance controls to help maintain messaging systems uptime and optimize server performance. The company said the software allows administrators to manage Exchange server configuration and operation, and provides automated anti-virus engine signature updates and systems reporting at the server and enterprise levels.
Microsoft has also released a similar set of Forefront tools for its SharePoint ECM (enterprise content management) server software, which offers the same type of security protections for that product line.
The company is offering a free 120-day trial of Forefront Security for Exchange Server 2007 to businesses interested in testing the software.
Some security software industry watchers have predicted that Microsofts aggressive move to add more technologies such as Forefront to its product lineup will have a dramatic impact on the sector as a whole in 2007 and beyond.
Microsofts products and its inclusion of a range of security features in its Windows Vista operating system are expected by analysts to have their first impact in the consumer market, increasing pressure on longtime anti-virus market leaders such as Symantec and McAfee, and to an even larger extent on their smaller rivals. However, Microsofts business security technologies will also affect demand for its rivals products, experts said.
John Pescatore, a Gartner analyst, said Microsofts entry into the security market wont change demand for enterprise security technologies overnight, but that it will have a long-term effect on market dynamics. He likened Microsofts arrival in the market to that of another major IT platform provider, Cisco Systems, roughly one decade ago.
"Almost 10 years ago, when Cisco first got into the firewall market, people said that would be game over; they ended up taking over about 30 to 40 percent of the segment, but it didnt kill the market, and the same thing will happen with Microsoft and anti-virus," Pescatore said. "As a result of their work so far, we can already see Symantec and McAfee moving faster in trying to address new threats like phishing; there definitely will be pricing pressure, and it will force the rest of the market to paddle faster to stay ahead or disappear."
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