It looks like the Softies weren't kidding when they said to expect Microsoft to deliver a Microsoft-managed version of nearly every one of its enterprise products.
According to sources, a new and as-still-officially-unannounced Microsoft managed service -- Forefront Online -- is under development. Forefront Online is going to be the business-focused equivalent of Microsoft's Live OneCare, Microsoft's all-in-one antivirus/antispyware/antiphishing/backup and restore service for consumers.
Forefront is the uber-brand for a family of Microsoft enterprise security products that handle everything from Exchange security, to firewalling. In June 2007, Micrsoft officials said they had started work on the next-generation versions of Forefront Client Security, Server Security and Edge Security and Access solutions, plus a new, unified management console for these products. This group of offerings is known as Stirling. Stirling products will be tightly integrated with one another, as well as with Active Directory and Microsoft System Center.
Microsoft officials have said that its growing family of Microsoft managed services, which the company recently branded as "Online," is aimed at only large businesses (those with more than 5,000 PCs). Products that Microsoft is currently offering in this arena include Office Exchange Online, the Microsoft-hosted version of Exchange Server; Office SharePoint Online, the Microsoft-hosted version of SharePoint Server; and Office Communications Online, the Microsoft-hosted Office Communications Server. (Company execs also have said to expect Microsoft to field a Microsoft-managed business-intelligence offering, but won't say when to expect it.)
Forefront Online, according to sources, will be targeted at both mid-size and small-business customers who are interested in Microsoft managing their security from inside the cloud.
No word yet on when Microsoft plans to put the Forefront Online bundle on the price list. I've asked the company for comment, but I'm not expecting much.
Update: As predicted, no comment. From a Microsoft spokesperson: "In the future, we will look to evolve our security offerings with our Software + Services model to meet the needs of our customers. However, we do not have additional details to share about Microsoft's strategy at this time."
Anyone out there in the small/mid-size business space interested in having their security managed by Microsoft?