Forefront Offers One-Stop Security Shopping for the Enterprise

Despite challenging economic times, IT security gets top priority at enterprises worldwide. The reason is clear. Expansive business processes, Web-based applications, and the demand for global collaboration with business partners and customers are shaping up to be game changers for enterprise security. It's understandable, then, why more organizations are turning to Microsoft's Forefront Security Suite.

Forefront delivers end-to-end security and access to information through an integrated line of protection, access, and identity management products. The robust enterprise security solution tackles today's evolving security and risk challenges as well as cost of ownership by reducing the cost of acquiring, deploying, and managing an array of fragmented security products.

"A year ago we were evangelizing about Forefront. Today, customers are not only asking for it, they're demanding it," says Greg Pierce, director of network infrastructure at Tribridge, a Microsoft Gold Certified IT services and business consultancy with headquarters in Tampa, Fla. "Forefront is compelling because it provides end-to-end security coverage and most of the pieces that companies look for."

The components of Microsoft's enterprise security offering include:

  • Forefront Management: Forefront Identity Manager; Forefront Protection Manager; Forefront Server Security Management Console.
  • Protection and Access: Forefront Client Security; Forefront Protection 2010 for Exchange Server; Forefront Online Protection for Exchange; Forefront Security for SharePoint; Forefront Security for Office Communication Server; Forefront Threat Management Gateway.
  • Identity-Based Access: Intelligent Application Gateway
  • Platform Technologies: Active Directory Technologies; Windows Identity Framework; Windows CardSpace

The vendor's roadmap for Forefront is based on three fundamental tenets: integrate and extend across the enterprise; help protect everywhere, access anywhere; and simplify the experience and manage compliance.

Plano, Texas-based Atlantic Aviation, a national company that offers a wide range of aviation services as well a large and premier network of fixed-based operations (FBOs), is heavily invested in Microsoft products. When the company experienced rapid expansion from 11 locations to 72 locations and 550 desktops between 2005 and 2007, Atlantic was compelled to rapidly expand its IT infrastructure.

Working with Microsoft channel partner Tribridge, Atlantic, a former Microsoft Core Client Access License (Core CAL) Suite customer, looked into the newer Microsoft Enterprise Client Access License (Enterprise CAL) 2008.

The bottom line for Atlantic: "We were able to effectively make a one-year return on investment including software and implementation," says Rob Davis, director of IT at Atlantic. In essence, the organization made a budget-neutral move.

The Enterprise CAL suite includes: Windows Server 2008 CAL; Exchange Server 2007 CAL and Exchange Server 2007 Enterprise CAL; Office SharePoint Server 2007 Standard CAL and Office SharePoint Server 2007 Enterprise CAL; Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 Standard CAL and Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 Enterprise CAL; Systems Center Configuration Manager 2007 Configuration Management License; Windows Rights Management Services; and Forefront Security Suite.

By the end of the first quarter of 2009, Atlantic had implemented Forefront Client Security, Forefront for Exchange and SharePoint, as well as the Forefront Server Security Management Console. The company opted not to renew licenses with vendors of other security products that addressed the antivirus protection at the desktop, off-site backup, and a license for GoToMeeting for collaboration.

"Enterprise CAL gave us Exchange filtering for e-mail, desktop security, expanded functionality in SharePoint and Office Live Meeting," says Davis. "The investment in Enterprise CAL, which includes Forefront, was an incremental cost that pays for itself when you look at the products it displaces. The decision was simple."

More recently, Atlantic implemented Office Communications Server (OCS) as well as Forefront Security for OCS.

James Kaddis, senior network engineer at Microsoft Gold Certified Partner LAN WAN Enterprise Inc., located in Fountain Valley, Calif., reports that Microsoft has opened a lot of doors with Forefront and customers are responding.

"Making the case for Forefront is particularly easy when it's time for customers to renew other vendors' products," he says.

For example, Kaddis points out that Forefront Client Security, which hides well and doesn't consume system resources, is attractive to customers at $45 to $50 per machine, including labor. That's compared to other vendors' client security software that can run as much as $400 to $500 per machine when taking into account the need purchase, install, and configure additional RAM.

Kaddis is also excited about Forefront integration with Microsoft's Active Directory, which provides the means to manage the identities and relationships in an organization's network.

"The unification and integration aspect of the two products keeps the infrastructure clean, which makes it more appealing to users. It also boosts performance because it's not using up system resources, which also translates into a cost savings," he explains.

John Oltsik, principal analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), says that business enablement depends on tight integration between identity and security.

"Microsoft offers tight integration between identity, security, and the Windows infrastructure, and its roadmap promises to extend that integration even further with the platform and its System Center offering," he says, noting that Active Directory acts as the central identity repository and is evidence of Microsoft's identity and security integration strategy.

Atlantic Aviation's Davis is not only sold on Forefront, but also on where Microsoft is headed.

"As Microsoft expands on the stack, we get to leverage the integration and increased functionality and grow based on the vendors R&D road map. And, we like where Microsoft is headed as well as the fact that for the next three years, I know what my software cost are," he says.

With an ambitious security strategy that is second to none, industry watchers and channel partners see Forefront shaping up to provide organizations across the board with all-in-one shopping for enterprise security.

With business-ready security for secure messaging, secure collaboration, secure endpoint clients and servers, information protection, and identity access and management, Microsoft is well positioned to be the security vendor of choice for companies of all sizes.

"Smart CIOs should place Microsoft on their short list of potential vendor partners for identity, security, and overall business enablement," says ESG's Oltsik.