ISA Server 2004 set for May launch

ISA Server 2004 set for May launch

Microsoft Corp. plans to officially launch its Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2004 at the TechEd user conference in the last week of May, a company spokesman said Friday.

The vendor will detail pricing and licensing terms for the software at the San Diego event, and the product will become generally available "shortly after" the launch announcement, Dave Berkowitz, a product manager at Microsoft said.

Pricing for ISA Server 2004 will be comparable to pricing for ISA Server 2000, Berkowitz said. On Microsoft's Web site, the company lists ISA Server 2000 Standard Edition at US$1,499 per processor, and the Enterprise Edition at US$5,999 per processor.

A public beta of ISA Server 2004 was released in January. The update promises improved network security and performance by delivering better application security, simplified management, tighter integration and faster caching, Microsoft has said.

Microsoft will offer only the Standard Edition of the product initially, followed by an Enterprise Edition by year's end, Berkowitz said. The differences between the two are expected to be similar to those of ISA Server 2000, for which the Standard Edition is a stand-alone server and Enterprise Edition is for large-scale deployments.

ISA Server is designed to help users protect Microsoft applications, such as the Exchange e-mail server, IIS (Internet Information Services) Web server and SharePoint collaboration tools. Application filters for each of those products will be available when ISA Server 2004 ships, Berkowitz said. Additional filters are in the works, he said.

Changes in the upgrade over the 2000 edition include an updated user interface and a new security architecture, Berkowitz said. The enhancements aim to help the product compete better with firewall and VPN (virtual private network) products from vendors including CheckPoint Software Technologies Ltd.

"While ISA Server has its history as a proxy server, it has graduated to become much more," Berkowitz said. Many of the updates in the new version were made with the intention to "elevate ISA Server's status as a firewall and VPN" product, he said.

Richard Stiennon, a vice president of research at Gartner Inc., said ISA Server 2004 is a nice update, but does not put Microsoft in the same league as firewall rivals like CheckPoint. "It is a good clean up update, but I won't say it is major. It doesn't all of a sudden make them a competitor to CheckPoint," he said.

Moreover, Stiennon believes Microsoft is taking the wrong approach for delivering a firewall product. "They insist ISA Server is a firewall, but it is a server. It is Gartner's strong belief that firewalls are gateway packet and stream processing devices and not servers. The market supports that; most new installations are appliances," he said.

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