Microsoft formally branded its security portfolio Forefront during keynotes to kick off the Tech Ed 2006 conference in Boston on Sunday.

The company also is set to unveil new partnerships and test releases of forthcoming products during the show's opening speeches by Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, and Chris Capossela, corporate vice president of Office marketing. Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's CTO, was also set to speak at the show.

The announcements at Tech Ed are aimed at delivering what Microsoft calls its 'people-ready' vision for business, which critics see as little more than a marketing slogan. Microsoft executives, however, have said the plan means that in the future the company will provide software and services that will help link everyone in a company more closely together.

Forefront will be the new umbrella brand for Microsoft's security portfolio, which includes Internet Security & Acceleration Server 2006, a new version of Microsoft's edge security gateway that provides network protection against internet-based threats, and Antigen, Microsoft's enterprise antivirus and antispam software.

Microsoft's growing security portfolio also includes a service formerly called Microsoft Client Protection. Now called Forefront Client Security, it is designed to deliver antivirus protection to business desktops, laptops and server operating systems. The product is currently in an early beta release to testers.

Operations manager

Microsoft will also release at Tech Ed the first beta of the newly renamed System Center Operations Manager (formerly Microsoft Operations Manager) and the first of SQL Server Everywhere.

System Center Operations Manager is Microsoft's network management software, while SQL Server Everywhere is a slimmed-down version of Microsoft's database for mobile and embedded applications.

Another community technology preview Tech Ed attendees can get their hands on is Visual Studio Team Edition for Database Professionals, an add-on to Microsoft's developer collaboration environment that adds a database professional 'role' to the tool. Visual Studio Team Edition allows multiple developers working on a development project to work according to their specific role. The tool already includes roles for developers, testers and architects.

Visual Studio tools for Office

Microsoft will reveal another add-on for developers, Visual Studio Tools for Office - formerly codenamed Cyprus. The tools enable developers to build applications for the next version of Office, Office 2007, directly from within Visual Studio. The tools will be available free when Office 2007 ships, which Microsoft expects to be in January 2007.

During his keynote speech Capossela will announce mid-July for the launch of beta 2.0 of Exchange Server 2007. Until now, Microsoft was only prepared to commit to "before September" availability. The product itself is expected to be available either at the end of the year or in early 2007.