Microsoft to open government-only dedicated cloud facility

Company announces a smorgasbord of new security enhancements to its Business Productivity Online Suite

Microsoft plans to launch a cloud-computing product specifically for the federal government, to be housed in a dedciated facility for the highest level of security.

Ron Markezich, corporate vice president of Microsoft Online, said the company has also added a smorgasbord of new security enhancements to its Business Productivity Online Suite, its cloud-based set of messaging and collaboration tools. He spoke at at Microsoft’s annual Public Sector CIO conference in Redmond, Wash.

The security enhancements to Microsoft’s cloud-based Business Productive Online Suite – which includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Live Meeting, and Office Communications Online – are compliant with ISO 27001, SAS 70 Type I and Type II, HIPAA, FERPA, Title 21 CFR Part 11, FIPS 140-2, and Trusted Internet Connections standards.

The new product – Business Productivity Online Suite Federal – is available only to federal government agencies, government contractors and others that require the highest levels of security features and protocols. BPOS Federal includes all of the features and security enhancements of BPOS but is housed in a separate, secured infrastructure facility.  Access to the facility, which is on Microsoft property in Virginia, is limited by biometric access controls, and all staff must be citizens of the United States who have undergone rigorous background checks, including fingerprinting, in order to comply with International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

“Microsoft is the first and only cloud provider to offer this level of protection and security for governments,” Markezich said. He also said that within six months, Microsoft will deliver compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act, two-factor authentication and encryption through RMS for BPOS and BPOS Federal. 

The focus at this year’s Public Sector CIO Conference is clearly on the cloud, with Microsoft also touting its Azure platform for cloud applications and services and the upcoming Office 2010, which is designed to run in cloud environments as well as on computers. 

“We recognize that many customers are not going to move 100 percent to the cloud today,” Markezich said. “This isn’t something that is going to happen overnight.  But for some organizations it is going to happen overnight.  For other organizations it will be a transition, where some applications go to the cloud and others stay in your data centers and there will be a planned path as to how you take advantage of cloud computing.”

Pricing for the basic Business Productivity Online Suite starts at $10 per seat, with volume discounts and discounts for existing customers available. According to Markezich, the price for the BPOS Federal service has not yet been set.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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