Microsoft Announces Business Productivity Online Suite Federal

Microsoft at its U.S. Public Sector CIO Summit announces a government-focused version of its Business Productivity Online Suite emphasizing security and privacy. Microsoft expects the federal version of BPOS to attain Federal Information Security Management Act certification within the next six months. Microsoft is promoting its cloud-based government offerings at a time when its competitors in the cloud space, including Google and, are also jockeying for federal contracts to provide IT services.

Microsoft announced security and privacy enhancements for its Business Productivity Online Suite, along with a government-focused version of BPOS, Feb. 24 during the eighth annual Microsoft U.S. Public Sector CIO Summit. BPOS Federal has been designed to fulfill the stringent security and privacy requirements of U.S. federal government agencies, the company said.

In addition to including the certifications and security features of the standard version of BPOS, the federal version will be housed on dedicated infrastructure in secured facilities, and will be accessible only via biometric access controls by U.S. citizens who have undergone the necessary background checks to access the system. Theoretically, this brings the offering in line with the needs of agencies and contractors that require extremely high levels of security protocols and features.

Microsoft said it expects the platform to attain FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) certification at some point within the next six months.

"The reason that governments in 48 of the 50 U.S. states have chosen from our Microsoft Online Services for offerings is in large part because our offerings are built from the ground up with enterprise-grade security and privacy in mind," Curt Kolcun, vice president of Microsoft U.S. Public Sector, said in a statement.

According to the announcement during the summit, BPOS meets a wide number of industry standards for privacy and security, including International Organization for Standardization 27001, Statement on Auditing Standards 70 Type 1 and Type II, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Title 21 CFR Part 11 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2, and Trusted Internet Connections compliance.

Microsoft said it expects to provide new updates to these online services approximately every 90 days.

The company is currently facing a challenge in the area of online services for government from Google, which has closed a number of deals with entities such as the city of Los Angeles to deploy its own cloud-based software. Google also plans to create a dedicated federal cloud computing system in 2010. The government cloud will include the cloud-based Google Apps productivity suite as a replacement for IBM Lotus Sametime and Microsoft Office SharePoint.

On Sept. 15, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra announced the opening of the Web store, where IT providers such as Google can offer cloud-based IT services for purchase by federal agencies. CTO Werner Vogels also indicated at the time that his company was positioning itself as a cloud services provider for the federal government.