Security Servers Put Microsoft in the Forefront

On the heels of this fall’s delivery of Windows 7 and its server complement, Windows Server 2008 Release 2 (R2), Microsoft is now in the process of delivering Forefront security server products aimed at keeping all of those systems secure and running smoothly.

Starting today, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is shipping a rebranded and updated version of what was previously called the Internet Security and Acceleration server, or ISA.

Goodbye ISA server, hello Forefront Threat Management Gateway (TMG) 2010.

Likewise, what used to be known as the Intelligent Application Gateway has been renamed Forefront Unified Access Gateway (UAG) 2010, Joel Sider, senior product manager in Microsoft’s core infrastructure marketing group, told

UAG 2010 is slated to be released to manufacturing (RTM) in mid-December, and available for sale soon afterwards, Sider added.

The two are part of what used to be code-named the “Stirling” family of enterprise security products, which the company has since branded as Forefront.

“It’s an integrated approach,” Sider said. “Many customers are experiencing what we call ‘security sprawl.'”

The two updated Forefront products, along with a Forefront offering for Exchange Server that shipped last month, are intended to ease those problems for both users and administrators.

“TMG provides new URL filtering, anti-malware, and intrusion-prevention technologies to protect businesses against the latest web-based threats,” members of Microsoft’s Forefront team wrote in a blog on Thursday. “These technologies are integrated with core network protection features such as firewall and VPN to create a unified, easy-to-manage gateway.”

Among the new features added in TMG is an implementation of Microsoft Reputation Services. This is comprised of a Microsoft-hosted, cloud-based system that maintains a centralized database of 45 million Web domains and billions of Web pages to identify and block malicious sites, the company explained.

“There’s no doubt that the risks [of going online] are growing, but blocking all access to the Internet is not an option,” Sider said. “Reputation Services [helps in] assessing whether a site is safe, especially from phishing attacks.”

Meanwhile, Forefront UAG 2010 is designed to provide secure connectivity between corporate networks and remote PCs and mobile devices, via the addition of what Microsoft refers to as Windows DirectAccess.

DirectAccess, which was introduced with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, aims to let remote users securely connect to Web sites and enterprise shares, as well as to applications without the use of a virtual private network.

“DirectAccess establishes bi-directional connectivity with a user’s enterprise network every time a user’s DirectAccess-enabled portable computer connects to the Internet, even before the user logs on,” read a post on Microsoft’s TechNet site.

“UAG is built around the idea of giving remote users first-class access to the key resources and network back in the home office,” Sider added.

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