With most Forefront tools now dead, what's an Exchange admin to do?

The new world of networking made most Forefront products irrelevant and will require a different security approach by IT

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Why did Microsoft kill the Forefront tools? In a nutshell, they weren't successful products. They failed because the market had moved on to other security approaches, such as the use of network appliances, instead of the server software approach employed in Forefront. That's the explanation from Hal Berenson. Now president of the consultancy True Mountain Group, Berenson had been Microsoft's general manager for Forefront UAG, Forefront TMG, and other security products.

"TMG was victim to a changing landscape in which the vast majority of the network-edge security business had moved to network appliance," he wrote in his blog. He notes that the traditional network boundaries that Forefront tools were designed for have largely disappeared, thanks to the migrations to BYOD, IPv6, and IPsec. In fact, Berenson says that TMG lost its "strategic value before TMG 2010 even shipped." (You never heard Microsoft say that while it was selling TMG 2010, of course!)

At the end of the day, killing off the Forefront products designed to protect a disappearing network perimeter makes perfect business sense. Microsoft is doing the honorable thing by providing mainstream support for three more years. But the sudden discontinuation of the Forefront product jolted customers.

At this point, my best advice is to move off Forefront TMG and the other tools. Although Microsoft doesn't have alternatives, you can look at adopting hardware firewall devices, which should also reduce complexity in the long run if you also use Microsoft security tools like DirectAccess. Some of these appliances also provide load balancing and authentication services, which are critical in a BYOD world.

In the end, Berenson says, you may be better off with the death of Forefront TMG and its brethren tools. You just won't feel that way for a while.

This story, "With most Forefront tools now dead, what's an Exchange admin to do?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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