ISA Server 2004 Enters Broad Beta

Microsoft posted a public beta of Internet Security & Acceleration Server 2004, the second-generation version of Microsoft's enterprise firewall and Web caching product.

Major enhancements in this beta for the follow-on to ISA Server 2000 include a bigger focus on securing the application layer through the firewall, improving ease of use and tuning performance.

There are several architectural differences between the ISA Server 2000 and ISA Server 2004 products. They include support for unlimited multiple networks and types with security policies that are configurable per network, enhanced VPN filtering and support for VPN tunnel mode, and a new user interface designed to improve upon the previous MMC snap-in.

Microsoft does not appear to be using Windows Server 2003 or ISA Server 2004 to force users to upgrade to the latest version of either product. With ISA Server 2000 Service Pack 1 and some other downloads, ISA Server 2000 can support Windows Server 2003. The beta version of ISA Server 2004 runs on both Windows 2000 Servers and Windows Server 2003 editions.

ISA Server is one of two major firewall technologies offered by Microsoft. While ISA Server is targeted at enterprise servers, a built-in firewall in Windows XP is targeted at personal computers. The Windows XP firewall is currently called the Internet Connection Firewall, but it will be renamed the Windows Firewall when Windows XP Service Pack 2 ships.

While the ICF primarily served as a security perimeter for home computers and branch office or home office systems, the Windows Firewall's enhanced configurability is supposed to make it a workable shield for systems that are inside corporate networks and already behind corporate firewalls, such as ISA Server.

The download page and the CD ordering page for the ISA Server 2004 beta are available at Microsoft's ISA Server homepage (

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.