Microsoft has released a public beta version of its Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2004.
ISA Server promises improved network security and performance by delivering better application security, simplified management, tighter integration and faster caching, said Microsoft product manager Joel Sloss.
The product has been in a closed beta for a while, but is now being made available for public testing.
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 ships later this year, Sloss said. Additional filters, including one for the SQL Server database, are also planned.
Main changes in ISA Server 2004 over the 2000 edition of the software are a user interface and enhancements in architectural support. ISA Server 2004 supports unlimited multilevel architectures, while ISA Server 2000 only supported three basic network types; internal, external and demilitarised zone.
Microsoft will offer only a Standard Edition of ISA Server by the middle of this year, followed by an Enterprise Edition by the end of the year. The differences between the two editions are expected to be similar to the ISA Server 2000 product, where Standard Edition is a standalone server while Enterprise Edition is for large-scale deployments.
Microsoft's ISA Server is not meant to be the only firewall in an enterprise, though it can be the only firewall in a small or medium-sized business or branch office.
"In a data centre, we expect ISA Server to be deployed with existing security infrastructure, behind CheckPoint or Cisco, to add layers of application security," he said.
Pricing for ISA Server 2004 has yet to be determined. The ISA Server 2000 Standard Edition is priced at $1,499 per processor and Enterprise Edition at $5,999 per processor.
The ISA Server 2004 beta can be found at www.microsoft.com/isaserver/
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service