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Microsoft, Trend Micro Push Security into the Enterprise

For almost as long as they've existed, security applications have been a little like guards at the wall of a medieval city: very important, but just kind of sitting out there all day, not really living with everybody else.

There's been a movement for a while to change that, and two vendors introduced products this week that show progress toward the goal of merging security and systems management. One of those vendors is Microsoft, which bulked up the Forefront security line. The other is Trend Micro, which aims to offer more manageable endpoint security. Both new offerings have cloud components, and both demonstrate the trend toward bringing security into better harmony with the rest of an enterprise's infrastructure in order to improve management and access while not sacrificing protection.

Microsoft might have delayed its security magnum opus, Forefront "Stirling," but it gave us some idea of what Stirling will offer this week with the unveiling of Forefront Online Security for Exchange (and there's more here). Forefront Online Security for Exchange -- not yet called FOSE, as far as we know, but it probably should be -- is a hosted anti-spam and anti-malware service for in-house Exchange implementations. That's hosted by Microsoft, by the way, in Microsoft datacenters. As in not hosted by partners. So how do partners get in on this new offering?

"Right now, the partner sells the service, and they get the margin on the service," Doug Leland, general manager for Microsoft's Identity and Security business group, told RCPU in our palatial headquarters in Framingham, Mass. this week. "It actually operates similar to the traditional ways with which partners sell boxes."

OK, then. That sounds less than super-exciting from a partner perspective, but it's important to remember that there's more to Forefront than just this one service, and there will be even more to come with Stirling, the second beta of which was released today, and which Microsoft expects to have fully completed by the first half of 2010.

Leland emphasizes that Microsoft, which is bringing together identity (primarily via Active Directory) and security (via Forefront), wants to make both elements part of a greater Microsoft stack and consolidate management of everything in the Microsoft infrastructure.

"As we move forward, we will light up new convergence scenarios," Leland said. "This is a built-in versus a bolt-on approach. Active Directory is a canonical example. It speaks very directly to the role that we want to play in the industry."

To date, Microsoft's role has mostly been one of underdog in the security market. Another much smaller underdog is also talking about the convergence of security and management this week. Trend Micro thinks your endpoint security is lousy, and maybe it is.

Trend, which touts itself as a "100 percent channel" company, wants to fix that with one of two new products: an updated version of the OfficeScan Client-Server suite or the Trend Micro Endpoint Security Platform. For both, Trend uses what it calls a cloud-client architecture (hmm, Software plus Services, anyone?), which means that a hosted service updates threat information in the cloud, but an on-premises server -- which the cloud service is constantly updating -- actually processes user requests to open files. The idea is that using a cloud service to update information takes a lot of heat off of the internal server, which is freed up to process user requests. At the same time, "you can update from the cloud to that server every minute, every five minutes, every 10 minutes," Dan Glessner, vice president of enterprise marketing at Trend Micro, told RCPU this week.

Trend is also talking about companies merging security and management, ideally (for Trend) by employing Trend's endpoint products exclusively and dumping the idea of multiple-vendor "depth" in security. Using multiple security applications "has presented huge complexity challenges in terms of management," Glessner said. "The complexity of management has become a bigger problem than the challenge of keeping out the bad stuff."

So Trend, via its alliance with patching vendor BigFix, proposes a single security management console that goes beyond managing security and forges into systems management.

"More and more enterprises are merging endpoint security with endpoint operations management," Glessner said. "We're bringing to market a single management structure that combines security with systems management capability."

You're not alone. In fact, we might even call the merging of security and systems management a...trend.

How would you like to see security and systems management come together? Do you have any experience with the Forefront beta or with Trend's products? Dump everything at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on April 16, 2009 at 11:55 AM