Microsoft gave details today of the product it hopes will make it a serious player in the lucrative security software market.
Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2000, part of the Windows DNA (Distributed iNternet Architecture) platform group of development tools, is designed to address the needs of enterprise firewall and caching.
ISA Server, currently in beta release, represents an attack by Microsoft on the territory of firewall vendors such as Cisco and Checkpoint Software. It will also be positioned against Novell's Internet Caching Server software, which vendors such as Dell and IBM bundle with their servers.
Speaking at Microsoft's TechEd Europe developer conference in Amsterdam, Karen Master, Microsoft lead programme manager for ISA Server, said the product provided better support for streaming media protocols, necessary to send video and audio traffic over IP networks, than was currently available on the market.
Master said ISA Server would only run on Windows 2000, but said the tight integration with the operating system and Microsoft's Active Directory would be selling points for the security server.
"Vendors like Checkpoint have bandwidth management and virtual private network products but these are sold separately. We are offering an integrated product that fits tightly with Windows 2000," said Master.
Security consultants predicted that the product would be popular, but questioned how effective it would be.
Richard Stagg, senior security architect at Information Risk Management, said: "Any new firewall software has problems, and ISA Server, especially given Microsoft's poor record of applying security policies to its products, won't be an exception to this."
Stagg said he was concerned about whether Microsoft had placed functionality, particularly in the ability to handle streaming media, ahead of security concerns in the design of the product. The ability of the product to support heterogeneous infrastructures with mixed Unix and NT machines was also a concern, he added.
ISA Server's enterprise firewall features include dynamic packet filtering, network address translation, system hardening and built-in intrusion detection, as well as an extensible application filter to deal with streaming media protocols such as H.323.
The software will use Dynamic IP filtering, which restricts access by opening ports only for active sessions, thereby protecting from the risk of external attacks.
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