Microsoft will offer the services as an added outsourced security technology to Exchange users. The company also expects that regulatory requirements will drive the need for email archiving services.
For Exchange users with a single server, Frontbridge delivers increased system uptime and continuity by offering access to email through a web-based system during outages or maintenance.
"We see FrontBridge's services as a perfect complement to Exchange. The FrontBridge team brings significant expertise in helping customers mitigate messaging risks before they ever reach the corporate firewall," said Dave Thompson, corporate vice president of the Exchange Server Group at Microsoft.
Most industry players see the move as a coming of age for managed services. "This demonstrates a clear validation of the managed email security market and we believe this will accelerate the adoption of such services," said John Cheney, chief executive at Blackspider Technologies.
But others see something of a mismatch between Microsoft and the provision of secure services.
Scott Petri, founder of managed security services firm Postini, said: "This is typical of Microsoft in buying a second, third or fourth player in a market.
"Postini is bigger and more profitable [than FrontBridge] and a lot of companies cannot trust Microsoft as a security provider."
"While FrontBridge sells hosted email security, compliance and continuity solutions, it does so only as a hosted service and by leveraging antivirus solutions from other vendors. The hosted service market is a very small segment of the overall security market."
Microsoft acquired antivirus and anti-spam vendor Sybari in February, but the two deals do not overlap, according to the company.
Although both acquisitions provide Microsoft with a spam and virus filtering product, Sybari's software runs on a local server while FrontBridge sells a hosted offering.
California-based FrontBridge has 3,100 customers. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Additional reporting by Ken Young.
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