Microsoft's Azure Government has become the first commercial cloud provider to receive official provisional authorization to host the Defense Department’s most sensitive controlled unclassified information.
According to a blog post by Microsoft Azure’s general manager, Tom Keane, the Microsoft cloud can host any kind of unclassified DOD data, including critical infrastructure information and controlled unclassified data that currently reside in national security systems.
A provisional authorization means military customers and DOD agencies can use Microsoft’s cloud for compute, storing, networking and database services regarding such data, giving the company a temporary leg up on competitors like Amazon Web Services and IBM.
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While both AWS and IBM had met previous security guide requirements for DOD’s most sensitive unclassified data, Microsoft is the first to meet DOD’s newest iteration of standards, which redefined requirements under so-called Impact Level 5 information.
“Information Impact Level 5 requires processing in dedicated infrastructure that ensures physical separation of DOD customers from non-DOD customers,” Keane said. The company ran a multi-month preview program for 50 DOD customers, including military services and defense agencies.
It’s an important first for Microsoft in the battle for the government’s cloud computing spend.
According to research from big data and analytics firm Govini, the federal government spent $3.3 billion on cloud computing in fiscal 2015, and that number is expected to grow in the coming years, largely driven by DOD. IBM has collected more cloud-based federal revenue than any other company, with more than $1.1 billion since fiscal 2011, while AWS boasts the highest-profile customer—the CIA—hosting classified data for the intelligence community.
As DOD continues to modernize its systems, a major priority under outgoing Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen, Microsoft’s provisional authorization to host Impact Level 5 data gives it a head start trying to capture new business defense business.