Microsoft security nirvana?

Imagine configuring a security policy and having it enforced across the IT infrastructure? That's the aim of "Stirling," a new product unveiled at TechEd.

Jon Oltsik
Jon Oltsik is a senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group. He is not an employee of CNET.
Jon Oltsik
2 min read

It is common knowledge that IT security is made up of isolated security islands that don't talk to each other and must be managed on a one-off basis.

Why is this? Best I can figure is that it is a historical combination of budget and behavior. Security budgets are notoriously tight, so tools tend to be brought in on an as-needed basis. As for behavior, security professionals grew up with a "best of breed" mindset. If security widgets 1 and 2 are deemed to be the best products available, they buy them. Security benefits tend to trump interoperability or operations challenges.

As an old blustery boss of mine used to say, "we've seen this movie before." Think of all the IT technologies that started as discrete implementations only to become an unmanageable mess when you tried to coordinate things across the enterprise. That's where we are today with security.

But, Microsoft sees the writing on the wall. Future security products must combine threat protection with enterprise scale and manageability.

At the 15th annual Microsoft TechEd conference on Monday, Microsoft announced a new product code-named Stirling that will aggregate client, server, and edge network security in a common management platform. Imagine configuring a security policy once and then having it enforced across the IT infrastructure? That is the exact goal. The product is due to go to beta later this year and become available in 2008.

Microsoft isn't alone in this pursuit. Symantec, McAfee and others are building products with the same objectives in mind. Years ago, Check Point Software introduced its OpSec software integration framework to piece together a similar type of offering, combining its products with others from partners. Microsoft's advantage here is its ability to go beyond security by adding further integration into its Windows infrastructure. Combine Stirling with Active Directory and System Center Operations Manager (formerly Microsoft Operations Manager) and you build a powerful set of capabilities.

Stirling will certainly appeal to finance and IT operations but Microsoft's biggest obstacle is convincing those stodgy old security gatekeepers that it can compete on pure security functionality. If it passes this test, it is likely to be very successful.