cloud security

Microsoft moves on classified cloud

To better position itself to take advantage of some of the federal government's largest cloud contracts, Microsoft stepped closer to launching the ability to host classified data in a commercial cloud.

 Lily Kim, Microsoft's Azure general manager, wrote in a April 17 blog post that two new Azure Government Secret regions were in private preview and pending accreditation. The new data centers are located over 500 miles apart, are operated by cleared U.S. citizens and built for infrastructure-, platform- and software-as-a-service applications with secure, native connections to classified networks.

The company also announced that it will be expanding the ability of all Azure Government regions to run Defense Department Impact Level 5 data -- highly-sensitive and controlled but unclassified information.

If and when Microsoft receives the Impact Level 6 authorization, the company can host essentially the highest levels of classified data for defense agencies. That would make Microsoft only the second commercial cloud provider to have the IL6 authorization; Amazon Web Services was the first.

The timing of this process coincides with DOD’s pair of multibillion dollar procurements: the much-touted $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure commercial cloud contract, plus the $8 billion Defense Enterprise Office Solution buy of cloud-based email, calendar, other communications and other collaboration tools.

AWS and Microsoft are the final contenders for the JEDI cloud contract currently in the source selection phase and also the subject of an ongoing lawsuit in Court of Federal Claims, which recently lifted a stay on that case and approved a new schedule. All JEDI bidders must be certified to host top secret information, of which only AWS is approved to do.

DEOS is being run by the General Services Administration and also has similar classified data hosting requirements, but bidders with an Impact Level 5 certification can be in the process of getting the IL6 designation.

Microsoft still has work to do in order to get to Impact Level 6. Azure Government Secret is in an ongoing “private preview and pending accreditation” phase prior to getting the IL6 designation.

“Since Azure Government Secret is pending accreditation, Private Preview is for existing Microsoft customers and evaluated on a case by case basis,” a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We are working closely with our government partners on the accreditation process.”

In the blog post, Kim also wrote the company is also in the process of getting an Intelligence Community Directive 503 accreditation, which would let it host similar levels of classified data for IC agencies not unlike IL6 for the defense community.

This article was first posted to Washington Technology, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at rwilkers@washingtontechnology.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also find and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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