On Monday Microsoft announced Stirling, a codename for the next release of its Forefront business security product. According to new reports, Stirling “integrates Microsoft’s antivirus, antispam and content filtering software, Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server, Forefront Client Security and network access control> tools while working with the Microsoft Network Access Protection (NAP) policy.”Over in Redmond, Microsoft isn’t exactly bashful about touting what it believes to be the many virtues of Stirling. Their senior director of Security Product Marketing, Margaret Arakawa, had this to say:
The reality is other vendors are not able to deliver the level of integration or unified protection, reporting and visibility that Microsoft can. It is not easy to take disparate security technologies and management capabilities that sit in various parts of the infrastructure and the IT organization and unify them in an interconnected system of protection and management. Microsoft can do this because we have developed our Forefront portfolio with comprehensive protection and secure-access technologies across the infrastructure and have built Forefront on a common management and policy infrastructure.
Some IT managers remain cautious about the potential that an all-in-one offering like Stirling has to restrict IT shops flexibility. “Being able to use one product would be a good thing because a big problem we have [with security] is that we have too many places to look for relevant information,” said Peter Gluck, technology director with advertising agency Cline Davis and Mann Inc. in New York. “In general, consolidation across products is good as long as it remains flexible. All-in-one frameworks tend to get rigid,” he said.
But that’s a big if. VARs will have to wait to see if Microsoft can deliver that elusive combination of power, integration and flexibility. If Stirling does live up to its billing, it could provide VARs with a powerful network security suite that makes enterprise network security deployments less painful. But of course Symantec, McAfee and other Microsoft rivals won’t sit idly by while Microsoft sucks up their market share, so VARs would be wise to adopt a wait-and-see approach before recommending Stirling to their clients.