Microsoft Updates Forefront Security RangeMicrosoft Updates Forefront Security Range

Microsoft launched the Forefront suite of security products in its effort to converge security and identity product offerings from the IT giant. Two new solutions have now been unveiled EForefront Threat Management Gateway (TMG) and Forefront Unified Access Gateway (UAG), which together flesh out Microsoft's (and Forefront's) access and web security offering.

TMG was launched late 2009 but UAG will not be available until later in 2010.

Forefront is seeking to offer a full suite of security solutions ranging from clients, servers and the network perimeter. As part of Microsoft, the Forefront range have some advantage over the security competition as they are designed to protect and integrate with existing Microsoft products.

One measure of how serious Microsoft is in breaking into and dominating the security market is the inclusion of Active Directory (AD) in the Forefront range. Projects handling migrations to AD are still out there in the market though the major enterprises and many of the medium sized companies have already made the transition; the issue for these clients is how to secure the infrastructure with AD now in situ. Microsoft believes its Forefront range is a natural and logical extension for security conscious AD clients.

TMG and UAG will be offers full-blown layered defense of access and control and Microsft also plan to offer the solutions on a "Software as a ServiceE(SaaS) basis which should bring the initial and total costs down for many clients, especially the small to medium sized business market.

TMG's function is to protect users from malicious websites and provide control over which sites or category of websites may be accessed or blocked e.g. pornography sites. In other words, TMG's function is as a web access gateway and it also integrates with Microsoft's Reputation Services, a cloud-based, data-threat repository.

Reputation Services collects information from almost 50 million domains representing billions of web pages. This database is further supplemented by information collected and shared by Microsoft companies, such as Hotmail, and third parties such as Brightcloud. The integration with Reputation Services is one reason there has been a lot of interest in TMG as clients already understand the nature and effectiveness of the benefits provided from this threat database.

UAG extends DirectAccess (found with Windows 7) to non-Windows 7 clients; DirectAccess is being promoted by Microsoft as an alternative to VPN access but so far has been restricted to Windows 7 with Windows Server 2008 R2 at the back-end. This development means that XP and Vista users can now use the solution though the DirectAccess server components will need to be running.

How good are these solutions as stand-alone products? They obviously rate highly because Microsoft is putting a great deal of effort and research into them as well as spending huge sums on acquiring the technology (UAG is technology acquired when Microsoft bought Whale Communications).

With clients it is not the standalone capability that holds the attraction however; this is a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Forefront is offering a viable, totally integrated and comprehensive security suite and for those clients who are looking to simplify and enhance security in depth while integrating fully with a Windows environment, there is no real competition.
by Larry J. Reaves
References and Bibliography
Lawrence Reaves is a strong believer in Richmond IT services such as Richmond enterprise storage and Richmond network security. For these services, Lawrence recommends PLANIT Technology Group, which can be found online at:
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