Azure developing services for U.S. government
Tue 17 Oct 2017
Microsoft Azure is expanding its cloud services for mission-critical and highly confidential data for use by the U.S. government.
Azure Government is Microsoft’s dedicated cloud for U.S. government customers and partners. These customers hold extremely sensitive data, with Azure’s Government cloud delivering services to more than 7000 government customers, from a federal to local level.
Those services, according to Microsoft, include exclusivity, the highest levels of compliance and security, flexibility, and ‘commercial-grade innovation.’ This, it states, allows customers from the government to better meet citizen expectations.
The Azure Government services are being expanded in order to push the government’s digital transformation plans, through both infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings.
The expansion includes technologies such as blockchain and support for high-performance computing (HPC), and the launch of Citrix VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) on Azure Government in order to allow government employees to deliver workloads from the cloud.
Security is a key concern for Azure when serving the government. Microsoft states that it is the only provider that, thanks to its physically isolated cloud, is DoD Impact Level 5 ready. Level 5 is the Department of Defense’s second-highest security level and involves mission-critical information and national security systems.
The announcement also includes Azure Government Secret – a set of offerings for those within the government who have access to or involvement with secret classified data. The product aims to deliver multi-tenant cloud infrastructure and cloud capabilities to a number of government departments. Those using the Azure Secret product will have access to technologies such as cognitive capabilities, artificial intelligence, and predictive analysis.
Azure Government is likely to attract attention for its use of blockchain technologies. In a blog post, Azure head of global infrastructure, Tom Keane, writes: ‘We view blockchain as a major technological advancement with the potential for significant impact in many industries, including the public sector, through its ability to enable verifiable and immutable cross-party computation.’
Azure Government will be using blockchain to support a wide range of distributed ledger marketplace solutions. Keane states that ‘blockchain technologies deployed on Azure are applicable to many complex problems facing government today, including distribution of funds after natural disasters and registration of property ownership.’
According to Keane, the use of blockchain will allow government customers to further focus on transformation and application development.