According to Amazon, the new offering, Amazon Web Services GovCloud, will meet a host of strict regulatory requirements specific to government. It's designed to meet moderate security control levels under the Federal Information Security Management Act and to meet FIPS 140-2, a federal cryptography standard.
In addition, Amazon says that GovCloud supports processing and storage of export-controlled, often defense-related, data and applications governed by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), as it limits both logical and physical access to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The servers powering Amazon Web Services GovCloud will be physically located on the West Coast of the United States, giving customers further assurance that their data will stay in this country.
Clouds like Amazon's GovCloud that meet government requirements will likely increase government adoption. "As we move workloads into the cloud, we look forward to leveraging ITAR-compliant clouds such as the new AWS GovCloud for our compliance-dependent projects so we can continue to look to the cloud first for even more missions," NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory CTO Tomas Soderstrom said in a statement.
"Our government customers sometimes have an additional layer of regulatory requirements given that they at times deal with highly sensitive information, such as defense-related data," Amazon CTO Werner Vogels said in a blog post. "GovCloud helps U.S. government agencies and contractors move more of their workloads to the cloud by implementing a number of government-specific regulatory requirements."
While a number of AWS services will be available at launch in GovCloud, a few will not. Those available at launch include Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) infrastructure-as-a-service, Simple Storage Service (S3) storage-as-a-service, Elastic Block Store, Amazon Virtual Private Cloud, Identity and Access Management, and CloudWatch monitoring service. Amazon is offering GovCloud through either a pay-as-you-go pricing scheme or on a year or multi-year term.
Amazon's announcement dovetails with two government-wide strategies currently being pushed by the Obama administration's tech team: the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, which aims to close 800 federal data centers by 2015; and the Cloud First policy, which requires that agencies analyze the possibility of using cloud computing as an alternative when justifying new IT investments.
Some government customers have been using Amazon Web Services even before the release of GovCloud. According to Amazon, more than 100 state, local, and federal agencies in the United States alone are using Amazon Web Services. Among those users are the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which powers the Recovery.gov stimulus-tracking website with AWS, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which uses AWS to process high-resolution imagery.
Over time, according to Amazon's Vogels, the GovCloud concept will likely expand beyond the U.S. government and its contractors, as Vogels said Amazon is interested in determining whether similar offerings could meet other countries' needs.
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