Microsoft Pushes Into Forefront

Microsoft plans to sink more money into Forefront, its comprehensive suite of tools for desktop, server and remote security, and its security partners stand to benefit -- perhaps substantially.

At its Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver on Wednesday, Microsoft announced a number of enhancements to its Security Software Advisor (SSA) program. SSAs are Microsoft partners that help sell and implement Microsoft security products like ISA Server, Forefront Security for Exchange Server, Forefront Security for SharePoint, Forefront Security Suite and so on. In all, there are currently 10 security products under the Forefront umbrella. SSAs earn up to 30 percent of the estimated retail price of any Forefront products they sell.

Microsoft stated in a press release that it has more than 4,000 SSAs, and that success has led it to boost its investment "in sales, marketing, training and other support for its security business" by $50 million.

It is also making some changes to the program specializations. The first is that the "Secure Management" specialization is going away; it's being merged into the "Secure Infrastructure" specialization. A new specialization has also been created, "Identity and Secure Access." Microsoft said that the change is being made because identity management and its relationship to secure network access has become a specialized skill set.

Microsoft is also broadening the category of companies eligible to become SSAs. In addition to security recommendation and implementation companies, Microsoft will make eligible businesses that engage in "infrastructure-related competencies, including Advanced Infrastructure, Network Infrastructure, and Information Worker competency partners," according to the release.

To push its Forefront products for the existing and new SSAs, Microsoft stated that it's launched a global advertising campaign targeting IT pros in 28 countries.

No new products in the Forefront family were announced at the conference. The next one on the horizon is code-named "Stirling," which will combine all of the security products in one giant offering, including a centralized management console. Stirling is expected to have a community technology preview sometime in the second half of 2007; it will have public betas in the first half of next year, and general availability in the first half of 2009.

About the Author

Keith Ward is editor of Virtualization Review magazine. You can contact Keith at [email protected].