Microsoft is on the verge of finally providing some pieces of software to back up its ambitious plan to integrate its security and identity technologies, but the company admits it is moving slower than it had anticipated.
"It is fair to say that getting this done in non-trivial," says Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's server and tools business. "It is taking us perhaps a little longer in some areas then we would like, but we are pretty excited about the progress that we are seeing."
Muglia says Microsoft is in the final test phase with Forefront Identity Manager 2010, which is one foundational element of the security and identity integration. Identity Manager is slated to ship early next year, and was previously known as Identity Lifecycle Manager. "This ties together the identity management across an organization and enables the foundation for security configurations and security policies that run on top," he says.
In April, Microsoft detailed a long-term strategy that will see it combine its identity management efforts with its Forefront security products built for clients, servers and the network edge. Most of the software encompassed in that plan will ship in 2010.
Delays, especially with Identity Manager and a management console for the Forefront suite, appear to be less about a reputation for slipped ship dates and more about ensuring the pieces are solid in order to avoid setbacks that could doom the effort, according to some analysts. Microsoft has little existing reputation as a security company.
"I think Microsoft is trying to do everything it can to take diligent steps to get it as right as it can be to keep the market happy," says Scott Crawford, an analyst with Enterprise Management Associates. "I give them a lot of credit for a very ambitious strategy. It is going to take time."
This week, Microsoft delivered antimalware software for clients in the form of Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE), a free security tool for consumers. The software was a replacement for Microsoft's Live OneCare security service and is as much a testing ground for similar enterprise software as it is a statement that antivirus tools are becoming a commodity.
MSE shares technology with Microsoft's Forefront Endpoint Protection, formerly Forefront Client Security, a centrally managed enterprise desktop security tool.
"They killed off OneCare but not necessarily because it was a failure, but because they wanted to refine their strategy," says Crawford. "They are looking at what they can capitalize on in terms of their enterprise strategy. Forefront is definitely more targeted toward the enterprise, certainly in terms of its alignment with System Center [management tools]."