The foundation starts with Active Directory and its ability to manage identities and credentials and to integrate with the cloud via Active Directory Federation Services and the Windows Identity Foundation (formerly Geneva) when it ships near the end of this year. Active Directory includes policies and privileges that extend to the edge of the network and are managed by Forefront Identity Manager.
On top of that is the protection layer Microsoft will add that includes, among other tools, antivirus and antimalware capabilities housed in the Forefront products.
Microsoft's Forefront lineup includes Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010 (formerly Forefront Client Security), Forefront Protection 2010 for Exchange Server (formerly Forefront Security for Exchange Server), Forefront Protection 2010 for SharePoint (formerly Forefront Security for SharePoint), Forefront Online Protection for Exchange (formerly Forefront Online Security for Exchange) and Forefront Threat Management Gateway Web Security Service (successor to ISA Server 2006).
The unifying piece is Forefront Protection Manager, which ensures all the tiers are integrated and combined with security assessment data from third-party products.
Protection Manager also will tie in with System Center Management tools, including Operations Manager and Configuration Manager. And Microsoft has said third-party partners would develop for Protection Manager, including Brocade, Juniper Networks, Kaspersky, Tipping Point and RSA.
It's a heady slate of software and services, all built or acquired by Microsoft and its partners, that needs to come together into a logical whole.
In April, Scott Crawford, an analyst with Enterprise Management Associates, said, "Microsoft has taken on a substantial challenge."
Follow John on Twitter: twitter.com/johnfontana