Microsoft's security, identity integration plan dragging

Microsoft executives say the company's ambitious plan to integrate security and identity software is progressing slower than hoped

Microsoft executives say the company's ambitious plan to integrate security and identity software is progressing slower than hoped but that the foundation for the work will be set early next year.

"It is fair to say that getting this done in non-trivial," says Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's server and tools business. "It is taken us perhaps a little longer in some areas then we would like, but we are pretty excited about the progress that we are seeing."

The evolution of Microsoft WindowsMuglia says Microsoft is in the final test phase with ForeFront Identity Manager 2.0, which is one foundational element of the platform. Identity Manager is slated to ship early next year. It was previously known as Identity Lifecycle Manager. "This ties together the identity management across an organization and enables the foundation for security configurations and security policies that run on top." Muglia says.

In April, Microsoft detailed a long-term security strategy that will see it combine its identity management efforts with its Forefront security products built for clients, servers and the network edge.

The company plans to integrate its security and identity products under the Forefront brand, offer software-as-a-service versions and present it all as a layered defense of access and control for its corporate infrastructure software.

Microsoft plans to pull together Active Directory, Forefront software, third-party products and tie it all together with the forthcoming Forefront Protection Manager console (formerly called Stirling), a centralized management panel for all the Forefront security products also slated to ship in early 2010.

Analysts have called the effort an ambitious plan that will challenge Microsoft to build coherent security architecture.Microsoft officials say the identity and security message is a natural outgrowth of last year's corporate reorganization that merged two business groups -- Identity/Access and Security/Access -- into the Identity and Security Business Group.

"We don't see ourselves as providing the only solution that an enterprise customer needs for security; we see ourselves providing a broad foundation of security services that a company can rely upon," Muglia says. "Then we can work with the rest of the industry to meet the specific needs as they might have for their given organizations on a security basis."

The foundation starts with Active Directory and its ability to manage identities and credentials and to integrate with the cloud via Active Directory Federation Services and the Windows Identity Foundation (formerly Geneva) when it ships near the end of this year. Active Directory includes policies and privileges that extend to the edge of the network and are managed by Forefront Identity Manager.

On top of that is the protection layer Microsoft will add that includes, among other tools, antivirus and antimalware capabilities housed in the Forefront products.

Microsoft's Forefront lineup includes Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010 (formerly Forefront Client Security), Forefront Protection 2010 for Exchange Server (formerly Forefront Security for Exchange Server), Forefront Protection 2010 for SharePoint (formerly Forefront Security for SharePoint), Forefront Online Protection for Exchange (formerly Forefront Online Security for Exchange) and Forefront Threat Management Gateway Web Security Service (successor to ISA Server 2006).

The unifying piece is Forefront Protection Manager, which ensures all the tiers are integrated and combined with security assessment data from third-party products.

Protection Manager also will tie in with System Center Management tools, including Operations Manager and Configuration Manager. And Microsoft has said third-party partners would develop for Protection Manager, including Brocade, Juniper Networks, Kaspersky, Tipping Point and RSA.

It's a heady slate of software and services, all built or acquired by Microsoft and its partners, that needs to come together into a logical whole.

In April, Scott Crawford, an analyst with Enterprise Management Associates, said, "Microsoft has taken on a substantial challenge."

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John Fontana

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