Microsoft Launches Azure Government Cloud in the U.S.

The software giant lures federal agencies and local governments with the promise of ultra-secure cloud data centers.

cloud security

Microsoft Azure Government is ready for business, the software giant announced at its Government Cloud Summit in Washington, D.C., this week.

"The Microsoft Cloud for Government is the most complete cloud for any government organization aiming to be more productive, agile and efficient in today's mobile-first and cloud-first world," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a statement. "We are proud to offer Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online to the growing number of government agencies that are ready to deploy leading-edge cloud computing solutions."

In the United States, Microsoft has been working to ensure that its cloud computing systems measure up to the federal government's tight security standards.

Last year, Susie Adams, chief technology officer for Microsoft Federal, announced that "Azure was granted the FedRAMP Joint Authorization Board (JAB) Provisional Authority to Operate (P-ATO)." The approval earned Microsoft's cloud the distinction of being "the first public cloud platform, with infrastructure services and platform services, to receive a JAB P-ATO."

In January, Microsoft plans to add Dynamics CRM Online for Government to the mix.

"Designed for FedRAMP compliance, Dynamics CRM Online for Government will help organizations improve productivity, offering greater efficiency, ease of use, and collaboration," stated Bob Stutz, corporate vice president of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, in a blog post.

"The January availability will introduce CRM Online into datacenters that will serve our U.S. Government customers who will benefit from our deep commitment to high availability and disaster recovery by providing a financially backed SLA of 99.9 percent, redundancy in the primary datacenter as well as failover to our secondary location in the event of a disaster," added Stutz.

Some governments have already begun migrating some of their IT operations to Microsoft's cloud.

The state of Texas has scooped up 110,000 seats of Office 365 Government, the company revealed. Alabama is likewise signing up for cloud productivity software, as well as deploying an Azure Government-based hybrid cloud solution for the state's Medicaid Health Information Exchange and CARES system. The U.S. Navy has rolled out Office 365 to 8,000 reservists, with plans for another 40,000.

Microsoft faces some stiff competition in its bid for a piece of government IT budgets.

In June, IBM announced that it is opening two new SoftLayer-based cloud data centers tailored to the federal government's requirements. Anne Altman, general manager of IBM's US Federal division, said in a statement that the IT giant "designed these centers with government clients' needs in mind, investing in added security features and redundancies to provide a high level of availability."

Earlier this month, IDC MarketScape named IBM a leader in the U.S. government private cloud market. The company's desirable mix of private, public and hybrid cloud capabilities "sets IBM SoftLayer up to play a leading role in serving the 'hybrid/mixed' cloud requirements of government entities which, to date, have shied away from leveraging public cloud-only offerings," stated IDC's U.S. Government Private Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) 2014 Vendor Assessment report.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...