Microsoft deal adds to antivirus, anti-spam arsenal

Microsoft made another acquisition to strengthen its antivirus and anti-spam strategy earlier this month, signalling to corporate customers that it plans to increase protection for desktops and servers.

The question now is how will Microsoft pull together all the disparate technology it has acquired and been developing during the past 18 months?

Microsoft bought antivirus and anti-spam vendor, Sybari Software, for an undisclosed sum, adding its wares, which focus on protecting corporate servers, to Microsoft's stable of antivirus, anti-spam and anti-spyware software.

In June 2003, Microsoft bought antivirus company GeCAD and, in December, purchased Giant Company Software, which develops anti-spyware software. In addition, Microsoft is working on antivirus and anti-spam services for the next version of Exchange Server as part of a project formally called Exchange Edge Services.

The trick now, on the corporate side, is melding Sybari with enhancements under way on Exchange and with management tools such as the forthcoming System Center.

"The [Microsoft product group]) that announced this acquisition was not the Exchange group, and that is weird given Sybari is strictly an Exchange virus scanning engine," an independent analyst with Directions on Microsoft, Peter Pawlak, said. "We are a bit baffled what this means for Exchange, and it is also hard to say what this means for Windows virus scanning."

Microsoft officials said the GeCAD software would overlap between consumer and corporate products, providing antivirus scanning for desktops, as well as being a scanning engine that can plug into the Sybari platform.

Sybari has no antivirus scanning technology but rather uses scanning engines from Computer Associates, Norman Data Defense, Kaspersky Labs, Sophos and others.

Microsoft could decide to add support for other antivirus software engines, but currently Sybari's Antigen wouldn't be able to run signature updates from Symantec, McAfee or Trend Micro.

"We will make GeCAD available as one engine, and we will write the signatures for that GeCAD engine," director of product management with the security business and technology unit at Microsoft, Lucian Lui, said.

His comments confirm rumours that Microsoft would supply updates to virus signatures.

Microsoft also must figure out how Sybari will integrate with plans to secure its collaboration platform, namely Exchange, and servers such as SharePoint Portal Server and Live Communication Server. Sybari provides antivirus software for both servers.

"Over time we need to think what are our product plans are and how do we best complement Exchange and SharePoint and so forth," Lui said. "Those plans have not evolved yet."

In addition, Sybari offers a management platform to control all its server-based software from a single console. That technology will have to mesh with Microsoft's evolving Dynamic Systems Initiative, namely a product called System Center that is a combination of System Management Server and Microsoft Operations Manager.

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