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Microsoft Reveals Azure Cloud For Government Agencies

Windows Azure U.S. Government Cloud will meet Defense Department security standards in a multi-tenant environment.
Microsoft will soon launch a dedicated multi-tenant cloud environment that meets the distinct requirements of U.S. government agencies.

The Windows Azure U.S. Government Cloud will be an exclusive community cloud available for U.S. state, local and federal government agencies. It will be hosted in Microsoft data centers located in the U.S. and managed by U.S. citizens. Cloud facilities that share content with non-governmental organizations or fail to meet data residency and oversight requirements have generally been out of the running for most federal agencies due to security concerns.

The difference between this government-only cloud and Microsoft's public Windows Azure cloud computing environment is "we can guarantee government tenants are physically and logically separated from other tenants -- and we'll meet the more stringent security controls required by Department of Defense," said Susie Adams, CTO for Microsoft's federal government business, in an interview with InformationWeek.

"The dedicated government cloud will give agencies the ability to design and deploy a combination of on-premises, private, public or hybrid cloud environments based on their security requirements," she said.

But it also will be able to deliver common infrastructure and storage services, as well as "full-featured platforms-as-a-service," Adams said, including the ability to order virtual machines, websites, mobile services, SQL database, Hyper-V Recovery Manager and a variety of application services.

[ Want to learn how the government shutdown affects IT? Dysfunctional Congress Hurts Government IT. ]

Adams declined to specify when the new Windows Azure Government Cloud would be available but said it was coming soon. The announcement was timed in part to coincide with other Windows cloud announcements, including news that Windows Azure had received an important government security authorization from the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), which certifies commonly used cloud services for federal agencies.

The Window Azure Government Cloud is separate from Microsoft's Office 365 and other office cloud services.

According to details in a blog post by Adams, Microsoft is working with Lockheed Martin and others to meet government-mandated requirements. The dedicated government cloud will be hosted in two specially constructed data centers collocated in Boydton, Va., and Des Moines, Iowa, with logical, physical and network isolation from Microsoft's Azure Public Cloud. Data will reside on servers that contain only data from other U.S. federal, state and local government customers. All operating personnel will be U.S. citizens screened for PPT-Moderate clearance.