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ISA 2004 Enterprise Edition Coming in March

Internet Security & Acceleration Server 2004 Enterprise Edition will be generally available in March, eight months after the Standard Edition of the firewall, VPN and Web caching server hit the market.

Microsoft announced this week that ISA Server 2004 Enterprise Edition had been released to manufacturing, the production milestone where a product is code complete. The Standard Edition became generally available in July. As usual at RTM, Microsoft disclosed the pricing, which holds steady at about $6,000 per processor from the Enterprise Edition of the earlier version, ISA Server 2000. The Standard Edition costs about $1,500 per processor.

Microsoft's biggest development investment in both editions of ISA Server 2004 over ISA Server 2000 came in greatly improving application layer filtering. ISA Server 2000 was released in an age before Nimda and Blaster when customers viewed firewalls primarily as protection against Denial of Service attacks and other attacks that came in low on the networking stack. Since then, attackers have become much more proficient at guiding attacks through application ports 80 and 443, which are generally required to be open.

Other improvements over the ISA Server 2000 generation include support for unlimited multiple networks, enhanced VPN filtering, support for VPN tunnel mode and a new user interface.

The Enterprise Edition of ISA Server 2004 goes beyond the Standard Edition in three main areas, adding centralized administration and monitoring and Network Load Balancing.

One of the key deployment scenarios for the Enterprise Edition will be organizations with branch offices. The centralized administration and monitoring features will allow headquarters IT to manage ISA servers providing VPN, caching and other services in all branch offices.

ISA Server 2004 Enterprise Edition also for the first time integrates Microsoft's Network Load Balancing technology, previously only available as a service of the Windows Server operating system. Network Load Balancing balances client requests across a group of available servers.

"We actually have the Network Load Balancing configuration integrated into the ISA Server user interface," says Josue Fontanez, senior product manager for ISA Server.

Integration of NLB makes it easier to use ISA Server 2004 to both protect and scale essential services, including VPN services, Remote Access Services, Outlook Web Access and Web applications, Fontanez says.

Also this week, Microsoft released a Microsoft Operations Manager Management Pack for both editions of ISA Server 2004. Microsoft is currently developing MOM management packs for all of its enterprise servers to position MOM as the preferred platform for managing a Microsoft-based infrastructure.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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