Microsoft ISA Server 2004 goes to beta

Microsoft Corp. on has released a public beta version of its Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2004, moving closer to the final release of the product.

ISA Server promises improved network security and performance by delivering better application security, simplified management, tighter integration and faster caching, Microsoft said. The product has been in a closed beta for a while, but is now being made available for public testing, said Joel Sloss, a product manager at Microsoft.

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 in mid-2004, Sloss said. Additional filters, including one for the SQL Server database, are in the works, he said.

Main changes in ISA Server 2004 over the 2000 edition of the software are a new user interface and enhancements in architectural support, Sloss said. ISA Server 2004 supports unlimited multilevel architectures, while ISA Server 2000 only supported three basic network types; internal, external and DMZ (demilitarized zone), he said.

Microsoft will offer only a Standard Edition of ISA Server 2004 midyear, followed by an Enterprise Edition by year’s end, Sloss said. The differences between the two editions are expected to be similar to the ISA Server 2000 product, where Standard Edition is a stand-alone server while Enterprise Edition is for large scale deployments, he said.

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-size business or branch office, Sloss said. “In a data center, we expect ISA Server to be deployed with existing security infrastructure, behind Check Point (Systems Inc.) or Cisco (Systems Inc.), to add layers of application security,” he said.

Pricing for ISA Server 2004 has yet to be determined. Microsoft on its Web site lists ISA Server 2000 Standard Edition at US$1,499 per processor and Enterprise Edition at US$5,999 per processor.

The ISA Server 2004 beta can be found at

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