Microsoft building a government community cloud

Microsoft is developing a multitenant, government community cloud to add to the variety of cloud offerings the company provides agencies and businesses, according to Curt Kolcun, vice president of Microsoft Public Sector.

“We continue to look at making sure that we have the broadest range of options,” Kolcun told a group of reporters Feb. 29 at the Microsoft Public Sector CIO Summit in Redmond, Wash. The General Services Administration has a blanket purchase agreement out for procurement and one of the set of four options GSA is asking for is a government community cloud.

“It is our intent to make sure we address everyone of those options,” Kolcun said. He reiterated the theme that cloud computing comes in a variety of forms for a variety of functions, much like the government agencies that use them, which he wrote in a blog posted March 1. There isn’t a “one size fits all” solution, he wrote.

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Microsoft currently offers government agencies the choice between Office 365 public or private cloud solutions hosted in a dedicated International Traffic in Arms Regulation-compliant or multi-tenant environment. The Agriculture Department has migrated e-mail for its 120,000 employees using Microsoft Office 365 in a dedicated ITAR cloud.

ITAR regulations dictate that information and material pertaining to defense and military technologies may only be shared with U.S. residents if authorization from the State Department is received or a special exemption is used.

Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management or service-provider interaction.

Microsoft views the cloud from an operating systems perspective and as a compute platform, Kolcun said at the CIO Summit. Windows Server is the compute platform, the on-premise platform that adds cloud capability and virtualization, which allows organizations to implement a private cloud, he said.

The Microsoft Azure cloud provides platform-as-a-service capability, such as the SQL Server database, business analytics and the ability to massively scale storage. Users buy licenses for the on-premise Windows Server. With Azure pricing is based on compute cycles, that is, how many cycles and how much storage the organization is going to use and how that is managed.

Security is also a concern with cloud computing and the core element of security is identity, Kolcun told reporters. Microsoft “Active Directory is a huge identity mechanism,” he said. For example, The Defense Information Systems Agency has an Active Directory for DOD.

“Identity is a critical element to look at as you move to the cloud, Kolcun said. Azure has Active Directory capability. So organizations can have Active Directory in the cloud or on premise. “We support hybrid models that allow the two to interact in a secure way,” Kolcun said.

The next wave of consolidation will be around line-of-business applications that are moved to cloud computing platforms, he noted. “Those are the biggest cost elements in the public sector when we look at the types of systems out there today.” Agencies can no longer afford the maintenance costs associated with legacy systems, Kolcun said.

There are opportunities to build out systems in a right way whether they are in the cloud or on premise, he said. “We aren’t talking about virtualization or developing the next wave of new applications,” Kolcun said.

Microsoft’s perspective is that there will be applications suited for the cloud, but there will still be applications on premise. These applications need to be able to talk to one another. As a result, hybrid scenarios will continue to unfold, the Microsoft vice president said.

Another pivotal point is productivity. The company offers Microsoft Office on premise as well as on a multitude of devices, providing users a rich collaborative experience. Agencies also have the ability to run Office 365 in the cloud, he said.

“We are looking at different mechanisms in how users want to consume the cloud and want to make sure that we are taking the broadest approach to do that,” to give agencies a seamless experience, Kolcun said. 

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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