Microsoft business security ready for prime time

Forefront Client Security is due in coming weeks, says CEO Steve Ballmer.

Microsoft is readying the final version of Forefront Client Security, its long-awaited product to protect business computers against malicious code attacks.

Forefront Client Security is designed to shield PCs and servers from threats such as spyware, viruses and rootkits. Microsoft announced the software in October 2005 and an early trial version has been available for about five months. The final release is due in coming weeks, Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer said Monday.

"Our client product is shipping in the next month or so. It really does do hygiene, security, antivirus, all the way down to the client level," Ballmer said during a presentation in the Netherlands, a video of which was made available by Webwereld, a Dutch technology news Web site.

Microsoft is ramping up its efforts to convince businesses that it's the solution to, and not the source of, their security woes. Forefront Client Security will go up against security software from established players including Cisco Systems, Symantec and McAfee. Microsoft unveiled Forefront as a single security brand for businesses in June.

"This is a major investment for us," Ballmer said. "It is a very serious investment for us. We know if you choose to adopt these products, they instantaneously become mission-critical in your environment."

Microsoft has already shipped some products under the Forefront brand, including Forefront Security for Exchange Server and Forefront Security for SharePoint. Those products stem from Microsoft's acquisition of Sybari Software in 2005. Microsoft first stuck its Forefront brand on former Sybari products last summer.

Ballmer spoke Monday at an event near Amsterdam called "You're in Control." The event focused on Microsoft's security and management products. Ballmer highlighted System Center as the brand for Microsoft's management software and gave an overview of the products and upcoming releases.

"We will continue to extend our management product line. We try to focus on being simple, integrated and comprehensive all at the same time," Ballmer said.

For smaller organizations, Microsoft is readying the release of System Center Essentials. These tools have a "little less capability, a lot more ease of use and a little lower price" than the enterprise System Center products, Ballmer said. System Center Essentials is due by the end of June, according to Microsoft's Web site.

For enterprise users, Microsoft plans to ship System Center Virtual Machine Manager later this year and is working on System Center Service Manager, a help desk product that is "nine months or more away," Ballmer said.

Microsoft also has renamed its Microsoft Operations Manager, or MOM, service-monitoring product to System Center Operations Manager, and its Systems Management Server, or SMS, change and configuration management software to System Center Configuration Manager. System Center Data Protection Manager, a backup and recovery tool, rounds out the current System Center family aimed at enterprises.

Presentations similar to those at the Netherlands event are scheduled around the world, including one on May 2 in Beverly Hills, Calif., where Microsoft has said it will make launch announcements around its Forefront and System Center products.

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