Microsoft releases public beta of security console

Stirling is administrative front-end to client, server, edge software

Microsoft on Tuesday released the first public beta of a centralized management console that will pull together administrative tasks around its collection of Forefront security software for clients, servers and the network edge.

At the RSA Conference, Microsoft released the first test code for Stirling, which it unveiled last summer. Stirling is designed as the knot that ties together Microsoft's Forefront security software – Client Security, Security for Exchange Server, Security for SharePoint, Internet Security and Acceleration Server (ISA), and the Intelligent Application Gateway.

Testers will have access to restricted versions of all that software with the Stirling beta, which is not feature complete.

Microsoft plans to release another beta before the shipping version of Stirling is released in the first half of 2009. At that time, all the Forefront products will have new versions that will integrate with Stirling, according to Paul Bryan, director of product management for the security and access team at Microsoft

He said taken together the Stirling console and the security software will provide something called dynamic response.

"There is this additional capability when you have more than one of those products plugged into Stirling," he said. "Dynamic response enables this comprehensive coordinated protection. It allows individual parts to communicate with one another and allows new types of threats to be addressed more quickly."

Uses will not have to deploy every piece of Forefront software with Stirling.

Microsoft plans to rename ISA to Forefront Threat Management Gateway, according to Bryan. He also said Microsoft will use the Forefront brand to rename the Intelligent Application Gateway, which was part of Microsoft's acquisition of VPN vendor Whale.

He did not reveal the name, but a diagram of the Forefront architecture with Stirling that Microsoft used in its presentation to the media showed remote access capabilities as part of the Threat Management Gateway. This appears to suggest that ISA and the Intelligent Application Gateway would merge.

The diagram also said additional features and technologies would be announced at a later date.

Stirling is a code name and will likely change before the product ships.

According to the presentation, Forefront Client Security includes antimalware, host firewall and integration with Network Access Protection. The Exchange and SharePoint products include protection for both those platforms plus content filtering. ISA – or the Threat Management Gateway – includes a firewall, Web antivirus and remote access.

Microsoft intends to position its Forefront line alongside platform services such as Active Directory Federation Services and Rights Management Services, and with System Center management tools such as Configuration Manager and Operations Manager.

Stirling will use Operations Manager to do the reporting, eventing and alerting.

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