Microsoft Targets Enterprise Messaging Security

Microsoft launches a line of enterprise e-mail security products for its Exchange server software as the company's first venture into corporate security since it bought Sybari Software 16 months ago.

June 6, 2006

4 Min Read
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Microsoft Tuesday launched a line of enterprise e-mail security products for its Exchange server software as the company's first venture into corporate security since it bought Sybari Software 16 months ago.

The Redmond, Wash. developer unveiled five new Antigen-branded products Tuesday, all of which will be available via volume licensing July 1. Four of the five can be downloaded in 90-day free trial versions from Microsoft's Web site.

"We're releasing a comprehensive set of Microsoft-branded products that have an unprecedented degree of integration with the Exchange environment," boasted Steve Brown, the director of product management in the company's security, access, and solutions group.

Three renamed and reworked products -- Antigen for Exchange, Antigen for SMTP Gateways, and Antigen Spam Manager -- rely on multiple scanning engines from Ahnlab, Authentium, Computer Associates, Kaspersky Labs, MailFilters, Norman Data Defense Systems, Sophos, and VirusBuster to sniff out malware and/or spam either at the perimeter edge (Antigen for SMTP Gateways) or inside the network at the Exchange server itself (Antigen for Exchange, Antigen Spam Manager).

A three-pack, dubbed Antigen Messaging Security Suite, includes all the components.Microsoft will also debut the Antigen Enterprise Manager, a central console to control and report on the Antigen-branded defenses -- but not third-party products -- and will give away an add-on to Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 that monitors the products as well as notifies administrators and alerts users of malware and spam activity.

This is the second major security product unwrapped in the past week. Last Tuesday, Microsoft launched its consumer security subscription service, Windows Live OneCare.

Microsoft considers the rebranded Antigen titles a full upgrade, with Joe Licari, the security software's director of product management, noting that they've tagged it as v. 9; before the Sybari purchase, Antigen was at v. 8.

Licari ticked off the new and improved features of the scanning components, suite, and console. Among them: support for server clusters, digitally-signed signature updates that have been vetted by Microsoft (which pulls them from the various scan engine providers), and stored configuration and update data for rapid restart when a server goes down.

Microsoft's also tossing its own anti-virus scanning engine into the mix. "Microsoft's engine is based on GeCAD [technology]," said Licari. Romania-based GeCAD, which was bought in 2003, also provided the core of Microsoft's OneCare anti-virus protection. "This is the first time that we've used GeCAD in a corporate environment."Brown, who touted pricing as "very competitive," said that the Antigen line would be sold on a subscription basis in the industry's usual per-user-per-year fashion, not as a Client Access License (CAL) to Exchange.

"For companies with fewer than 250 users, the Suite will be priced at $14.50 per user per year," Brown said. "And the Enterprise Manager will be priced at $98 per server."

"Microsoft is clearly ramping up its security effort," said Peter Pawlak, an analyst with Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions On Microsoft. "They just went live with OneCare, and the corporate Client Protection is in beta and expected later this year.

"They're very serious about security. But they also know that this is one of the big areas where they have to do a good job," added Pawlak.

Characterizing the Antigen messaging security family as "another option for companies," Pawlak noted that some enterprises will turn to Microsoft for anti-virus and anti-spam scanning. "They'd rather have a single vendor" when it comes to support, he said, instead of dealing with the hassles of cross-vendor support.

One of Microsoft's rivals in the overall security space, and in message security specifically, disagreed."When it comes to security, people know that just good is not good enough," said McAfee's spokeswoman Siobhan MacDermott. "Microsoft's [security products] are just not as good as a single-point vendor."

McAfee and its ilk, which service heterogeneous environments and offer best-of-brand protection and filtering technologies, are by default a better choice, she said. And then there's the anti-Microsoft anxieties that some companies suffer.

"Companies, especially very large companies, don't want a single vendor providing both the OS, or in this case the OS of the mail server, as well as security," MacDermott claimed. "It's like letting the fox guard the henhouse. Microsoft may know its products [such as Exchange] but they are arguably the reason why security vendors exist."

In April, McAfee rolled out Total Protection, an all-in-one solution that lets enterprises and small business users manage all the company's security components from one console.

McAfee will also bring its SiteAdvisor service, which is now only targeting consumers, to corporations, said MacDermott. "Today's it's a consumer play, but we'll integrate that into our enterprise offerings as well, to bring safe search there."By 3:00 p.m. EDT Tuesday, as the NASDAQ dropped .57 percent and the Dow .78 percent, McAfee's stock was down 13 cents (or .55 percent) to $23.40, while the other two major security companies, Symantec and Trend Micro, were off 2.24 percent and 3.74 percent, respectively. Microsoft, meanwhile, was down $.45 (2 percent) to $22.05.

The trial versions of Antigen for Exchange, Antigen for SMTP Gateways, Antigen Spam Manager, and Antigen Enterprise Manager can be downloaded from the Microsoft Web site.

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