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Microsoft to buy in more security skills

Microsoft says it will build its business security portfolio through acquisitions, but some analysts doubt enterprises will be interested
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Written by Tom Espiner, Senior Reporter on

Microsoft will focus on rapid acquisitions to quickly build its security capability, the company said this week.

Recent acquisitions such as Winternals and virtual private network (VPN) specialist Whale will help Microsoft build a comprehensive range of integrated services that cover every aspect of security, according to Gopal Kutwaroo, Microsoft's UK security product manager.

"Our strategy is clear. We don't do point solutions, but are trying to create integrative services, with products and solutions that work right across the computing environment," Kutwaroo said.

Speedy acquisitions combined with organic growth will continue to be a mainstay of Microsoft's security strategy.

"Acquisitions are locked into building our capability," Kutwaroo told ZDNet UK. "There's an appetite for [fitting] the right part into the [existing] bed of technology."

Microsoft bought Whale for its Internet protocol security technology skills. Whale's secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption particularly interested the software giant, as it complements Microsoft's application-layer firewall, virtual private network, and Web cache software, ISA Server 2006, according to Kutwaroo.

Microsoft's business security product, previously known as Microsoft Client Protection, was renamed Forefront in June. The public beta is due out in the fourth quarter of this year.

"We're looking at a defence-in-depth strategy for client edge and server environments," said Kutwaroo. "Frontbridge will provide mail archiving and content filtering in the cloud, while the Sybari acquisition [in February 2005] has provided Antigen [email antivirus technology]," Kutwaroo said.

Many of Microsoft's business security products will be integrated into Windows Vista, due next year.

"We will lock Vista down as much as we can. We hope Vista won't have too many security disadvantages, but if it does we will address those as fast as we can [through Microsoft security products]," said Kutwaroo.

Security analyst Andy Buss of Canalys predicted that Microsoft would have a bigger impact on the consumer market with its OneCare security service than in the business arena with Forefront.

"Microsoft is not proven in the enterprise security space," said Buss. "It will take longer to penetrate large businesses, which are naturally cautious [of unproven technology]," said Buss.

According to Kutwaroo, Microsoft's general strategy for acquisitions is "held tightly with Redmond". However, the technology giant may acquire more security companies with its $2bn (£1bn) war-chest, and is also looking to its partnership programme to extend its market.

"Microsoft is very interested in growth. Microsoft is looking at potential partners very carefully to make sure they have a total capability," said Kutwaroo. "There have been a lot of acquisitions in the server, edge, and cloud spaces. I imagine we'll see developments in best of breed client protection."

Gartner fellow and Microsoft specialist David Mitchell-Smith predicted that there would be no huge acquisitions, but instead that Microsoft would focus on the "little companies in the Web 2.0 space".

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