top secret cloud

Microsoft unwraps top secret cloud

Microsoft announced its top secret, air-gapped Azure Government cloud has received authorization to operate and is "generally available" for national security workloads.

Azure Government Top Secret offers multiple geographically separate regions, providing "multiple options for data residency," and is launching with more than 60 services with more set to come online, Tom Keane, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Azure Global, wrote in an Aug. 16 blog post.

Among the initial Azure Government Top Secret services are Azure Data Lake, Azure Cosmos DB, Azure HDInsight, Azure Cognitive Services and advanced analytics functions designed to "help human analysts more rapidly extract intelligence, identify trends and anomalies, broaden perspectives, and find new insights," while also supporting interoperability with other cloud services, Keane said.

Azure Government Top Secret’s new services -- Azure Kubernetes Service, Azure Functions, and Azure App Service – allow users working with highly sensitive data to take advantage of containerized applications, serverless workloads and web apps supported by built-in infrastructure maintenance and security patching.

One purpose-built service called Multi-INT enabled discovery (MINTED) enriches raw data and metadata with either pre-trained or unsupervised machine learning. This “no-touch output” can be particularly useful for data triage use cases, where analysts are given an enormous amount of data with few clues as to what’s important, Keane said.

Microsoft was working toward a top secret classification as a key deliverable on the now-defunct $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract with the Department of Defense. The JEDI solicitation stipulated that the winner be able to field secret and top secret cloud capacity within a specified time frame. While JEDI was cancelled, Microsoft is set to be one of the key vendors in its replacement contract vehicle, which has yet to be named or announced.

The company announced its plans to seek approval for top secret cloud regions in December 2020, when the JEDI contract was still in effect. Microsoft also has customers in law enforcement and elsewhere in the intelligence community. Notably, Azure and Office 365 are available across the intelligence community via the ICITE (Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise) common platform through a joint enterprise licensing agreement with Dell, Inc.

Microsoft will also be able to leverage its high security classification in the event that it prevails in its protest of a $10 billion single-award contract to Amazon Web Services made by the National Security Agency. GCN's sibling publication Washington Technology was the first to report on that protest of the contract known as "WildandStormy."

According to the report in Washington Technology, NSA is looking to move away from its on-premise cloud solution to a more hybrid approach.

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

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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