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New beta out for Microsoft security management dash

This Stirling beta adds a feature called dynamic response, which automates responses to malicious attacks based on policies set by IT.

Microsoft released fresh trial code for Stirling, a security tool that will give Windows shops a central dashboard for configuring and managing security tasks from the client to network endpoints.

Stirling, which is a code name, is set for release in the first half of 2009, along with the next generation of Microsoft's Forefront enterprise security applications. The console will let IT shops control and set security configurations and policies for Forefront Client, Forefront ISA Server (now called Forefront Threat Management Gateway), Forefront for Exchange and Forefront for SharePoint.

The trial software includes a few download options such as a package that contains the Stirling management system and the initial beta releases of the next generation of its entire Forefront product line.

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IT managers can also select which products they want to download with the console.

The first Stirling beta is built on top of and is integrated with the System Center Operations Manager 2007. Future versions of Stirling will integrate with System Center Configuration Manager 2007, the company said. The code is already integrated with Windows Server Update Services and with Active Directory.

Stirling adds a feature called dynamic response, which will be available in all of Microsoft's security products. The technology replaces manual change management with automated responses to malicious attacks based on policies set by IT and shares this information across all points on the network.

"With [dynamic response], IT can do a comprehensive scan of a machine, block Internet access or block email access, for example, so it's really automating a lot of manual processes that they have to handle today," said Josue Fontanez, senior product manager with the access and security division of the server and tools business at Microsoft.

Microsoft's goal with Stirling is to do away with multiple management products for security applications.

…Enterprises are looking for anything that will help them simplify management.
Natalie Lambert, Forrester Research,
The management system only supports Microsoft products, but the software company is considering the support of other vendors' security applications, Fontanez said.

Symantec Inc., Microsoft and other companies, are developing software that combines security and systems management to simplify and centralize overall operations management. Some of this assembly has come through acquisition, such as Symantec's purchase of Altiris and Microsoft's acquisition of Komoku Inc. just last month.

Many security functions have become a commodity, so it's no longer a discussion about what is the best tool, but rather what is the best overall solution and management method, according to Natalie Lambert, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

"Day-to-day security [tasks] are being thrown over to the operations folks and enterprises are looking for anything that will help them simplify management," Lambert said.

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