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Amazon Pushes Harder To Win Government Cloud Market

Microsoft and Google logged early wins, but Amazon Web Services is taking new steps to win over government cloud customers.
Top 20 Government Cloud Service Providers
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Slideshow: Top 20 Government Cloud Service Providers
Amazon Web Services is a market leader in cloud computing, but it's been a latecomer to the federal cloud market. The company is now pushing hard into the government market, releasing a government-focused cloud earlier this month and continuing to increase the size of its public sector group.

While Amazon has had government customers since the early days of its S3 storage service and EC2 infrastructure service (NASA was a launch partner for S3), the company didn't begin to build its government-focused business until 2009, and didn't have a formalized public sector business unit until late 2010, when it brought in former Microsoft federal sector VP Teresa Carlson.

The federal government is marching down a path that includes mandated data center consolidation, budget cuts that may force agencies to look for alternative ways to invest in IT, incredible volumes of data being created in government, and the White House's Cloud First policy, which requires agencies to think about cloud computing in any new major IT procurement. That all translates into a big opportunity for Amazon, if it can replicate its success in the commercial market with government agencies.

Microsoft and Google began their government cloud pushes before Amazon. In December 2010, the Department of Agriculture announced that it would roll out Microsoft's cloud-based apps to 120,000 employees and contractors. And in the same month, the General Services Administration (GSA) disclosed a contract for Google Apps.

Carlson says that security and compliance are the first topics government agencies bring up in meetings with the company. Amazon is working with GSA on pushing its products through the federal government's forthcoming FedRAMP security accreditation process, but Carlson admits that she is not sure whether agencies will even end up flocking to it as hoped. "What I know is that we will meet and exceed their needs," she says.

The company's public sector business continues to grow as Carlson builds out a team of account managers, technical solution architects, and staff with focus on the federal, state, local, and education markets.

Amazon is also building up partnerships with an array of government contract specialists, including Northrop Grumman, SAIC, Booz Allen, Deloitte, and geospatial services company ESRI, as well as smaller contractors that have a focus on the government market like Synteractive, which has worked with the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board to power stimulus-tracking website with Amazon's cloud.

Earlier this month, Amazon launched the GovCloud region for Amazon Web Services, an offering that will provide services to government customers from a coterie of Amazon data centers that meet strict International Traffic in Arms Regulations and are designed to meet other federal requirements as well, including federal cryptography standards and Federal Information Security Management Act moderate security control levels.

In addition to meeting a checklist of compliance requirements, Amazon sales, marketing, and product management VP Adam Selipsky pointed out a number of features that could be attractive to government, including dedicated instances to ensure agencies that they're the only customer running on a particular physical server at any given point in time and direct private connections to Amazon's cloud. While GovCloud includes only a limited array of services at first, Amazon "absolutely will add all the other services as quickly as possible," Selipsky said.

Even before the launch of GovCloud, federal agencies were Amazon cloud users.,, and the new Federal Registry website are hosted on Amazon Web Services. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory uses AWS for processing images from the Saturn Cassini spacecraft and for storing plans to drive the Mars Rover. Even some enterprise applications are creeping in: the Department of Education is deploying a business process management app on AWS with Appian.

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