"Stirling will provide complete integrated protection and coordinated management, which is an important point. These aren't simply point products defending individual portions of the IT environment anymore; this is a framework that reaches across the network and end points," Leland said. "Integration by design is a key differentiator from other solutions on the marketplace; through integration, we will help customers save time, reduce costs, and build out a more secure IT environment."
However, Microsoft's security rivals claim that the company's biggest selling point is also its greatest weakness.
In addition to the level of concern that most customers harbor about trusting the software maker to protect its OS, desktop, and infrastructure technologies -- especially in light of the security vulnerabilities frequently found in all of those products -- Microsoft's technologies don't address one of the biggest complexities of today's IT environment, heterogeneity, said John Thompson, chief executive of Symantec.
"Microsoft's entry into the security space will make us a better company and make us better able to support the needs of our customers than perhaps if we had not seen them enter the marketplace," Thompson said. "But in a broader sense, they don't care about issues outside of their own world; I can't think of any large enterprises that are Windows only, so while Microsoft has added capabilities for protection within the context of their own products, we have to address the real-world heterogeneous technologies in use within all of our customers."
And other large security technology providers echoed those sentiments.
Platform providers including Microsoft, Cisco, and EMC have invested heavily in acquiring security technologies, but the integrated features those companies have built into their respective desktop, server, networking, and storage platforms don't provide the level of comprehensive cross-architecture capabilities that large customers demand, said McAfee CEO David DeWalt.
"The question becomes would you trust your [computing infrastructure] and security requirements to a single vendor," said DeWalt. "Microsoft can tell you that they will throw security capabilities into their products, but that turns the overall debate into best-of-breed security from a specialist like McAfee versus a gigantic platform company with some security in their strategy. Our goal with heterogeneity is to create freedom of choice for companies to leverage across their environments; customers don't want to get locked into a single vendor for everything."
While recognizing the need for a "healthy ecosystem" of vendors, Microsoft executives deny, however, that their security technologies relate only to their own products.
Microsoft's identity and access management tools can be used with nearly any type of IT and networking platforms, and in deference to its competitors' skills, the software giant's Forefront security products source anti-virus engines from Symantec and others, company officials said.
And more importantly, Stirling will give customers the ability to manage security systems made by a number of different vendors using Microsoft tools, according to the company.