Microsoft has released a betaof the next version of its firewall and VPN product, Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2006. The company has also announced limited customer beta programs for both its Microsoft Client Protection and Microsoft Antigen for Exchange, according to Ted Kummert, corporate vice president for the Security, Access and Solutions Division at Microsoft.

In addition, the company is set to buy web filtering software called DynaComm i:filter from FutureSoft.

New features for Microsoft's ISA Server 2006 include increased security for web application servers through multi-factor authentication and integration with Microsoft's Active Directory. The update also features better management tools that simplify the process of deploying ISA Server 2006 in branch offices, as well as configuring Microsoft servers such as Exchange, Sharepoint and others for use with ISA Server. In addition, the company claimed that the beta improves web-page load times and reduces costs for users in branch offices by compressing HTTP traffic..

In an interview on Microsoft's website about the purchase of DynaComm i:filter, Kummert said Microsoft is buying only the web-filtering product from FutureSoft, while the Houston company, which is privately held, will remain independent.

DynaComm i:filter allows IT administrators to filter content coming through a company's network that has been deemed inappropriate or bandwidth-hogging. The software also protects users against spyware by blocking the download of executable files through Web browsers.