When I talk to CIOs, CSOs or even IT professionals today, there is a consistent theme in every conversation:  the ever increasing mobility of today's workforce.  What are the implications to IT when it comes to mobility?  It essentially breaks down to remote access from any device from anywhere or very simply "anywhere access".  With anywhere access, there are two pillars that must achieved:  security and connectivity.  Both are equally important and paramount in the mind of every CSO or IT professional.  For many years, we have seen numerous technologies take center stage to help accelerate connectivity or ease the pain in getting access to the data and applications we need to be productive when on the road or even working from a thin device.  These include, but are not limited to Remote Access Servers, Virtual Private Networks, web based portals and even hosted services.  Technologies such as SSL VPNs and single sign on portals have eased some of the pain, but still the collaboration and ease of communication is not seamless.

Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 change the game with how we communicate and collaborate when travelling, working remotely or needing to collaborate from home.  It changes the game through a technology known as DirectAccess.  More specifically, DirectAccess is a new feature in the Windows 7 client and the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating systems that enables users to be seamlessly connected to their resources, data and applications through the Internet.  DirectAccess eliminates the need for cumbersome VPN connections or software to get connected.  Collaboration and communication becomes easier than ever before.  You can learn more about the Windows 7 solution through an upcoming TechNet Webcast next month.

Forefront comes into play to help make this even easier and more widely deployable through the Forefront Unified Access Gateway (UAG) product which is built on the Forefront Threat Management Gateway (TMG) platform for protection and firewall capabilities.  Both products build upon the DirectAccess technology built into Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 and extend it by providing enterprise management, flexibility and transitional capabilities.  In short, UAG enables DirectAccess capabilities to all servers - especially those that are still running or limited to IPv4 addresses.  This effectively provides a DirectAccess experience to legacy applications, servers and resources.  Now, to provide my personal experience in using the beta internally, it changes the way I do work every day.  I have the freedom to work from anywhere with my laptop and smartcard, I can get access to data and applications within seconds.  I no longer have to spend time with a VPN connection or worry about unreliable Internet links.  I can feel comfortable going to home or traveling on the road as I know I will have access to the resources I need wherever I go. 

Forefront and Windows have already made my interaction with colleagues and my team easier than ever before.  I predict in the not too distant future it will change the way businesses communicate and collaborate in the future.  In my mind, this is what Business Ready Security is all about - productivity without security comprises.  

David B. Cross
Product Unit Manager