Microsoft steps up positioning in government cloud contest

By Laura Berrill
Microsoft announces its Azure Government Top Secret cloud has received authorisation making it available to US national security agencies

Azure Government Top Secret is positioned as Microsoft’s most secure cloud infrastructure. It complies with Intelligence Community Directive 705, which calls for sensitive compartmented information facilities to meet uniform physical and technical security requirements.

The company’s corporate VP of Azure Global Tom Keane explained in a blog that 60 different services are available through the service, with features including Azure Data Lake and Azure Cognitive Services available in the secure environment.

He said: “These services help human analysts more rapidly extract intelligence, identify trends and anomalies, broaden perspectives, and find new insight.”

Microsoft has made 'Azure Government Top Secret' generally available, and can now bid for US government contracts with top-secret data hosting requirements.

The company has long offered 'Government' and 'Government Secret' services, but now is after highly classified data workloads.

Supporting Intelligence Community Directive standards

Unlike its other offerings, Azure Government Top Secret supports Intelligence Community Directive 705 standards, a list of precise steps a 'compartmented information facility' has to follow. The data centers need to follow strict rules on construction, physical security features and staffing checks. As part of the process, the Azure regions are ‘air-gapped’.

"Built into a unified data strategy, these services help human analysts more rapidly extract intelligence, identify trends and anomalies, broaden perspectives, and find new insights. Microsoft brings together massive signal depth and diversity of over 8 trillion signals per day combined with cutting-edge AI, machine learning, and a global team of security experts to deliver unparalleled protection," Keane added.

Under its Government and Government Secret cloud regions, Microsoft has long worked with the US military and surveillance industrial complex.

Cloud partnerships in the intelligence community

The company was approved as a supplier of cloud services to the US intelligence community in 2018, and two years later was chosen (along with AWS, Google, Oracle, and IBM) as part of the multibillion dollar C2E cloud contract- where the CIA will get each company to bid for specific task orders for itself and the 16 other agencies in the intelligence community.

The US Department of Defence recently cancelled a $10 billion contract awarded to Microsoft, planning a re-tender with the company and Amazon Web Services (AWS), which had previously contested the deal.

Last week multiple news outlets reported AWS won a separate $10 billion contract from the US National Security Agency, which Microsoft protested.



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