Azure Government customers will soon be able to run Azure Stack in their own data centers, Microsoft said on March 5.
Initially introduced at the Microsoft Ignite conference in May 2015 and officially released during this past September's event, Azure Stack bundles Microsoft's cloud software with integrated systems from Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and other server makers. It is primarily aimed at hybrid cloud deployments, although customers can run it independently.
Azure Stack essentially allows organizations to run a little piece of the Azure cloud computing platform in their own data centers and tap into Microsoft's public cloud resources if they desire. A downloadable Azure Stack Development Kit for single-server deployments allows users to test the technology before taking the plunge.
Operated under stringent security and compliance requirements, Azure Government typically receives new cloud products and services months after their public counterparts. In terms of Azure Stack, the wait is nearly over for U.S. government agencies, revealed Tom Keane, head of Global Infrastructure at Microsoft Azure, in a March 5 announcement.
"Azure Stack will integrate with Azure Government, enabling consistent connections to Azure Government across identity, subscription, billing, backup and disaster recovery, and the Azure Marketplace," stated Keane. "Azure Stack will also enable government customers to seamlessly use and move amongst public, government-only, and on-premises cloud environments to rapidly respond to geopolitical developments and cybersecurity threats."
Also set to arrive soon is the availability of two Azure Government regions, bringing the total number of cloud data center regions dedicated to government users to eight. The two new regions can accommodate government data classified secrets, noted Keane.
To ensure secure connectivity to Azure Government, Microsoft is also planning to roll out two new ExpressRoute markets, Phoenix and San Antonio. ExpressRoute enables organizations to bypass the public internet by establishing direct links to Azure data centers, a ploy used to improve security and avoid inconsistent networking performance.
Power BI Embedded, a recently released service that allows users of the Power BI business intelligence and analytics product to incorporate data visualizations and reporting into their own software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, is now available to government customers. Also new are large DV3 and EV3 instances that support nested virtual machines and Hyper-V containers.
Microsoft's moves arrive amid intensifying competition among cloud providers seeking to grow their government customer bases.
"AWS recently won a huge $600 million contract with the CIA" and is expanding its GovCloud services portfolio in the face of growing demand, observed Marty Puranik, CEO of cloud hosting provider Atlantic.Net.
"Government (specifically federal revenue) is a significant part of any enterprise company's revenue. Microsoft has to play to the space to not only retain its licensing revenue, but to expand it as they roll out new features in their own cloud," continued Puranik. "By keeping federal business in the Microsoft ecosystem, Microsoft stands to benefit as the company rolls out new features and products."