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For some time now, the channel has always had a problem putting the words security and Microsoft together in a sentence. Whether or not Microsoft deserves the reputation for a lack of secure products is a debate that rages on throughout the industry; it all comes down to perception.

People today perceive Microsoft’s products as unsecure and are adding third-party security applications and security appliances to protect their data, from either real threats or perceived ones.

That has created a great deal of opportunity for the channel and solution providers in particular. The simple fact of the matter is that security can be a profitable business for vendors, distributors and channel partners alike.

Microsoft has dabbled in security products for some time, but mostly as applications that are bundled with operating systems or other products, but that is about to change. Microsoft is rolling out a public beta of a security suite of tools under the code name of Stirling.

When Stirling starts shipping, the official name of the product will become Microsoft Forefront, a name that many security professionals are already familiar with. Although the name may sound familiar, the underlying technology has changed significantly, as well as the ideology of security at Microsoft.

Although Forefront won’t bring anything earth-shattering to the security market, the product does push the envelope when it comes to unifying security and simplifying management. Microsoft has taken the view that if security is hard to manage then it is most likely to be used ineffectively.

The first product that will be available under the Forefront banner will be Forefront Client Security, which combines several security technologies, such as anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-phishing, desktop firewall and NAP (Network Access Protection) into a single client product.