Azure Government – The most secure & compliant cloud for defense with new compliance and service offerings

By Tom Keane as written on azure.microsoft.com
Broad support for regulatory compliance and ongoing innovation are at the core of Microsoft’s commitment to enabling U.S. government missions with a complete, trusted, and secure cloud platform. Today, we are announcing support for Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) requirements, expanding opportunities for defense contractors to take advantage of cloud computing in meeting the needs of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Adding DFARS compliance extends Azure Government’s lead as the cloud platform with the broadest support for U.S. DoD workloads. In addition to this compliance milestone, we are also announcing enhanced technical capabilities with the expansion of our Cognitive Services preview, addition of Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) clusters, and the addition of new database and storage options in Azure Government. With these expanded compliance and service offerings, government customers will have new opportunities to use cloud computing to help meet their mission goals.

Supporting DFARS requirements

Azure Government’s support for DFARS requirements creates new options for DoD contractors as they partner with the defense department. DoD industry partners can now host Covered Defense Information (CDI) on the Microsoft cloud platform while maintaining compliance with DoD procurement requirements, giving them access to the same set of Azure Government capabilities as the DoD itself.
“As a mission partner of the DoD, the security of covered defense information is of utmost importance. Compliance with DFARS is not only required by regulation, but is also critical to the defense of our nation,” says Michael Hawman, General Atomics CIO, “As more DoD contractors consider the adoption of cloud computing to reduce costs and increase agility and capability, the transparency by which CSPs provide support will be critical to building and maintaining trust with cloud security in the defense contractor community. Commercial cloud service providers must familiarize themselves with, and be capable of accepting flow down DFARS requirements as soon as possible."

Cognitive Services available for all customers

Building on the successful preview of Cognitive Services in March, we are now making Cognitive Services available to all government and defense. Opening the preview up to more customers, U.S. government customers and partners can use Cognitive Services to feed real-time analysis that supports their mission objectives. Leveraging the artificial intelligence from Cognitive Services for things like facial recognition or text translation, customers can more easily build applications to help make informed decisions in critical scenarios such as Public Safety and Justice. Azure Government support for application innovation is part of why agencies are choosing Microsoft as their partner in digital transformation:
“Before beginning the search for specific technologies and digital platforms to meet DC’s digital needs, we identified our own list of standards for government cloud service providers. The first three criteria are compliance, reliability and the technical architecture and environment of the platform,” says Archana Vemulapalli, CTO of Washington D.C., “Microsoft offers a strong government cloud platform and services that help my staff and me perform our jobs effectively and create the city’s digital future.”

Announcing GPU clusters, Azure Cosmos DB and Cool Storage

Azure Government continues to add services at an accelerated pace to meet existing as well as unrealized needs of the U.S. government. By announcing GPU clusters today, Azure Government further enables the use of High Performance Computing (HPC) in the cloud for government. Whether using computational analysis to better research diseases and weather patterns or helping reduce backlogs of questions answered for citizens through predictive analysis, U.S. government customers and partners are sure to benefit.
Additionally, Azure Government now supports Azure Cosmos DB and Cool Blob Storage which enable government customers to deploy global-scale databases and choose from more options to control storage costs. Azure Cosmos DB is the next big leap in the evolution of DocumentDB and, as a part of this Azure Cosmos DB release, DocumentDB customers and their data automatically and seamlessly become Azure Cosmos DB customers. Additionally, we are making Cool Storage available so customers can store less frequently accessed data like backup data, media content, scientific data and active archival data at a reduced cost.

Powering innovation at the Department of Veterans Affairs

Agencies are choosing cloud computing and Azure Government to help speed innovation to those they serve. Last month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs launched its Access to Care site on Azure Government. The site helps veterans and their caregivers decide where to go for healthcare services by providing data on patient satisfaction, appointment wait times, and other quality measures from surrounding clinics and VA facilities. Already, the VA has been able to meet the demand, while enhancing the website and continuously adding new functionality by leveraging the capabilities of Azure Government.

“The VA is focused on driving transparency and empowering the veteran,” said Jack Bates, Director VA OI&T Business Intelligence Service Line, “Working closely with Microsoft to deliver the Patient Wait Times App on Azure Government, we have enabled the Department to be fully transparent about performance, and to improve service to the veteran by providing meaningful data.”

By building and hosting Access to Care on Azure Government, which achieved a FedRAMP High ATO from the VA in March, the VA is continuing to embrace digital transformation and improve its services for veterans around the world.

Cloud computing for U.S. Government

From increased support for compliance requirements to application innovation, Azure Government continues to expand capabilities that make it easier for U.S. government customers and partners to take advantage of the cloud. And with six announced government regions in the U.S., Azure Government enables customers to run mission workloads closer to their users and provides geographic redundancy that is not possible with any other major cloud provider.

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rob-bernard-four-green-tech-predictionsFour Green Tech Predictions for 2017

Written by Rob Bernard as seen on blogs.microsoft.com
The end of the calendar year is a traditional time of reflection, of the ups and downs of the past year, and to think about what to expect in 2017. As Microsoft’s chief environmental strategist, I am encouraged by the progress made on some environmental issues in the past year, but there is still much work to be done. Despite the increasing urgency around many environmental issues, I remain optimistic about the future.
Perhaps the most notable breakthrough this past year was that the Paris Agreement on climate change entered into force. Cities, countries and companies around the world are now focusing their efforts on how to set and execute their plans to reduce carbon emissions. We also saw growth in corporate procurement of renewable energy in 2016, both in the U.S. and around the globe, another encouraging sign. At Microsoft, we put forth our own goal to source 50% of our datacenter electricity from wind, solar and hydropower. At the end of this year, we’re happy to report that we are on pace to not only meet our goal, but also are creating new financial and technology models that can further accelerate the pace of the adoption of renewable energy.
As we look towards 2017, I expect that we will see both continued progress on energy and an increasing focus on non-energy areas. As we at Microsoft think about 2017, I think we expect to see some shifts in approaches and investments happening across the world.

1. IoT and Cloud Computing will begin to transform utility energy management:

Aging infrastructure is already under pressure and the addition of more renewable energy will only compound the stress on existing infrastructure. As more clean energy comes online, along with distributed resources like electric vehicles and rooftop solar, utilities are facing a big challenge – how to manage a more complex network of energy creating and energy storing devices.  2017 will see an increased investment by utilities in technology to leverage data, through IoT solutions and cloud computing, to make energy management more predictable, flexible and efficient.
In developing nations, we are seeing a different trend, but one that is also accelerated by IoT and cloud computing. In these markets, data is being used to accelerate distribution, sales and management of micro-solar grids to enable households to get both power and connectivity to the internet. 2017 should be an exciting year with even more growth as capital investments in these markets increase and solar and battery storage prices decline.

2. Water will begin to emerge as the next critical world-scale environmental challenge

leaf-rain-raindrops-drop-of-water
Water scarcity is increasing in many areas around the world. Our oceans are under threat from pollution, acidification and warming temperatures. We are already seeing the devastating effects on iconic landmarks like the Great Barrier Reef. And these trends are putting peoples’ food, water, and livelihoods at risk. In 2017, awareness on this challenge will increase. We will begin to better understand what is happening to our water through the use of sensors and cloud computing. Our ability to leverage technologies like advanced mapping technologies and sensors will increase and expand our understanding of what is driving the decline of many of our critical water systems.

3. Data will increasingly be used to try to better understand our planet

Data is essential for monitoring and managing the earth’s resources and fragile ecosystems. There is much we do not understand about the planet, but we see an increasing number of companies and investments flowing toward developing tools and platforms that enable better mapping and understanding of earth’s carbon storage and air borne gasses, and ecosystems and the associated value they provide. We expect to see data being applied more proactively to create a more actionable understanding of how we can better manage food, water, biodiversity and climate change.

4. Organizations and policy makers will start leveraging cloud-based technologies

This area is perhaps the most difficult to try to predict. While countries will begin implementing their action plans under the Paris Agreement, it is not easy to predict the methods each country will use and prioritize to make progress against commitments under the Paris Agreement. And the changes will happen not just at the national level. Increasingly we will see cities and local governments moving ahead with technology implementation to drive efficiencies and accountability, along with policy changes as well. We’re already leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence to better model and understand the potential impact of legislative changes, in addition to offering our technologies to our public sector partners as they work towards their plans. While this will likely take several years to take hold, 2017 should see an increased awareness for the role of technology in environmental policy
While there are many challenges ahead across so many areas of sustainability, I remain optimistic.  The number of people and organizations that are focusing on these and many other areas of sustainability ensure that we will continue to make progress in 2017.  At Microsoft, we are committed to working with our customers and partners to help them achieve more through the use of our technologies. Everyone – companies, countries, individuals – have much work to do. We believe that by working together, we can help develop effective solutions to address environmental challenges that will benefit our business, our customers and the planet. And we are up to the challenge.

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Cloud Computing Brings Innovation to the Legal Profession – Work Smarter

Cloud computing is innovating the way many industries conduct business. The legal industry is no different and is taking advantage of powerful new technology to change and improve the way it brings legal services to its clients. Cloud computing helps firms connect legal professionals, improve communication and collaboration, and reduce IT expenses while improving scalability and security.
How is the legal industry benefiting from cloud computing innovations? Let’s take a look at some specific ways legal professionals are leveraging powerful new enhancements in information technology.

Secure access and strict data controls

Naturally, the first concern with storing data in “the cloud” will be with security and privacy. Cloud computing basically takes data, financial records, legal documents and other information and stores it offsite on a remote server. Some debate has risen around this subject which questions the ethics of storing data remotely. A recent article in the American Bar Association Journal concluded that there is no specific ethical concern or prohibition against legal practices using cloud computing. Fortunately, security is one of the strengths of the cloud. All data and documents are automatically protected by attributes, permissions and version control. Additionally, access can be tightly controlled by access that can be either granted or denied to internal and external individuals by system administrators.

Increased productivity for your firm and team

Your team has secure access to all information anywhere, anytime and from any device. Working the cloud reduces the amount of administrative resources needed to manage matters and documents, allowing your team of professionals to spend more time on cases and less on pushing paper. Internal team members can securely share and edit documents with colleagues or clients – with all changes tracked through automatic version control. Productivity is the name of the game when your firm is working in the cloud.

Finding, researching and managing documentation

Robust search capabilities allow maters and documents to be found quickly. Less time searching means more time working. Frequently used matters or documents can be marked or pinned for easy access later. Legal professionals deal with massive amounts of information; the cloud makes finding that information routine and as easy as using a search engine on the Internet. Not only that, transporting documents is as easy as moving them into the cloud for instant access in or out of the office from a laptop, tablet or even mobile phone.
Today’s powerful cloud computing tools are enabling companies to innovate just about every facet of their business. Innovation can take the form of simple improvements on existing processes and workflows, or they can be as significant as inventing entirely new ways of getting work done. What is clear is that the power is now in the hands of your entire legal team and can help you transform the way your firm does business instantly.
At Managed Solution, we know exactly what your firm needs to automate previously manual and disparate tasks to increase efficiency and productivity of your firm. We provide a secure file sharing, mobile productivity and collaboration technology solution specific to your firm’s needs. Learn More >>

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