Microsoft Kicks Off Security Push With Antigen

A big new wave of Microsoft security products began rolling in this week as the software giant announced the Antigen security line for e-mail and messaging servers.

Aimed primarily at Exchange Server and other Windows Server customers, the new software suite is stirring controversy in the security software industry, where the major antivirus vendors and others stand to lose significant numbers of customers to the Redmond, Wash.-based firm.

As for users, they are cautiously anticipating Microsoft’s security push, waiting to see if the software company has improved its security efforts, but interested in comprehensive IT security coverage from one place.

“There’s a spectrum from ‘no way, ever,’ to ‘wait and see,'” IT-Harvest Chief Research Analyst Richard Stiennon told TechNewsWorld. “This is going to be a product, certainly in the enterprise, that people aren’t going to deploy just because it’s Microsoft. Maybe in one or two years, when it will be tested, they will. People like to buy it all in the box.”

Antigen Lineup

Microsoft said its new Antigen security products — a result of its acquired antivirus and anti-spam technology from Sybari, which it bought a year and a half ago — would be available July 1, and would also be made available for a free, three-month trial.

The company this week rolled out Antigen antivirus and filtering for the following: Exchange Server 2000 and 2003; SMTP Gateway security for Windows Server 2000 and 2003; and Spam Manager for Windows-based SMTP and Exchange servers. Microsoft also released Antigen Enterprise Manager, Antigen Messaging Security Suite, and Antigen Management Pack for its Operations Manager 2005 software.

“Antigen’s unique multi-engine solution integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Exchange Server to provide customers with the benefits of layered protection, while minimizing cost, complexity and impact on performance,” said Microsoft Vice President of Security, Access and Solutions Ted Kummert.

Uptake Expected

Antigen is a solid product, and Microsoft’s marketing and industry power may further propel what was a successful security software package from Sybari before Microsoft bought the company, Forrester senior analyst Laura Koetzle told TechNewsWorld.

“I fully expect seeing lots more uptake for it from folks running Exchange Server,” Koetzle said.

Although she cautioned against Microsoft claiming to provide all the security software a company needs, when in fact there is “a world of security things they don’t make,” Koetzle said Microsoft’s security suite would likely appeal to smaller businesses using Exchange and Windows servers, particularly if the price was attractive.

IT shops and customers have been anticipating Microsoft’s security products, and have been renewing antivirus and other security software agreements for shorter terms so they can try the software giant’s solution, Koetzle reported.

Big Challenge

The security software market, and particularly antivirus and related software, is a difficult one to enter given the size of dominant players, such as Symantec and McAfee.

“This is a big test for anybody who gets into antivirus,” Stiennon said.

The challenge is even more difficult for Microsoft, facing a lawsuit from Symantec, which may be joined by other vendors in trying to stem Microsoft’s security offerings, according to Stiennon.

The analyst added while there is no doubt Microsoft has the marketing and promotion ability to push its security software, whether it has the technical ability to protect and win over customers remains to be seen.

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