Microsoft Pours $50M into Forefront Security Line

Software vendor is looking to grow sales and support for its line of security products.

Microsoft is spending another $50 million to pump up sales, marketing, training and other support for its Forefront line of security products, the company announced July 11 at its Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver. Its also expanding eligibility so that more partners can take advantage of the up to 30 percent additional fees that they can receive through its Security Software Advisor program.

Forefront is Microsofts battering ram when it comes to breaking into the enterprise security market. When the Redmond, Wash. company launched the first pieces of Forefront Dec. 8, analysts such as Gartners John Pescatore predicted that Microsofts entrance into the market would not only cause pricing pressure, but would also give industry stalwarts like McAfee and Symantec a swift kick in the pants, innovation-wise.

"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," Pescatore told eWEEK at the time.

/zimages/6/28571.gifTo read about Symantec and McAfees recent battle over Hamlet, click here.

Fast-forward seven months. Microsoft has had to defend Forefront after its OneCare product flunked multiple third-party anti-virus tests. Forefront Client Security is based on the same anti-virus and anti-spyware technology as OneCare. For example, OneCare received the lowest score on AV-Comparative.orgs test of 17 products for three categories: detecting viruses, macros, worms and scripts; backdoors, Trojans and other malware; and a third category, which combined the results of the first two.

Still, according to Mark Hassall, Microsoft Security & Access Partner marketing director, Forefronts not doing too shabby. Microsoft now has more than 4,000 partners in the SSA (Security Software Advisor) program.

"The response has been tremendous," Hassall said in an interview. Through the SSA program, Microsoft has trained thousands of security partners through online Webcasts and boot camps, he said.

Forefront is built on technologies acquired by Microsoft through its February 2005 buyout of Sybari, an anti-virus specialist. The Forefront tools are designed to protect 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 anti-virus scanning engines, sourced from leading security software makers, and aggregates the data into a single interface.

Microsofts partners in the software industry have been "quick to recognize the opportunities" that Forefront provides, Hassall said.

"Many of our partners are deeply involved in providing security assessments and architectural guidance and are already leveraging the infrastructure optimization model to deliver more secure and well-managed infrastructure solutions based on Forefront and System Center," he said in an internal Microsoft interview. "There are lots of opportunities to attach Forefront to infrastructure solutions, for example securing Exchange and SharePoint deployments, where Forefront offers greater protection and control through integration with customers existing IT infrastructure."

One Forefront reseller, CompuCom, is forecasting a Forefront attach rate of between 10 percent and 20 percent on SharePoint and Exchange deals, Hassall said.

On top of the $50 million injection of funds into marketing, sales, training and other Forefront support, Microsoft has also expanded its Security Solutions Competency with new specializations, certifications, and program benefits to more closely align the program with how partners sell infrastructure software and serve as customer advisors.

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