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

By Tom Keane as written on
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.

microsoft gets the pentagons - managed solutionMicrosoft Gets the Pentagon’s Highest Cloud Security Rating for Unclassified Data

By Phil Goldstein as written on
Last month, the Defense Department gave Microsoft’s Azure Government cloud platform its highest certification in terms of security for unclassified data.
In a company blog post, Tom Keane, general manager for Microsoft Azure, noted that Azure Government is “the first commercial cloud service to be awarded an Information Impact Level 5 DoD Provisional Authorization by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).”
Such an authorization allows all DOD customers to use Azure Government for the most sensitive controlled unclassified information (CUI), including CUI of National Security Systems. FCW reports that Microsoft already held FedRAMP High, FedRAMP Moderate and FedRAMP Accelerated approvals under the General Services Administration's Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program.
“This achievement is the result of the collective efforts of Microsoft, DISA and its mission partners to work through requirements pertaining to the adoption of cloud computing for infrastructure, platform and productivity across the DOD enterprise,” Keane noted.


According to a March 2016 DISA guide on cloud computing security guidelines, “CUI is information the federal government creates or possesses that a law, regulation, or governmentwide policy requires, or specifically permits, an agency to handle by means of safeguarding or dissemination controls.”
CUI can encompass numerous kinds of information, including unclassified information concerning items, commodities, technology, software, or other information whose export could reasonably be expected to adversely affect U.S. national security and nonproliferation objectives.
This includes dual-use items; items identified in Export Administration Regulations, International Traffic in Arms Regulations and the munitions list; license applications; and sensitive nuclear technology information.
CUI can also include Personally Identifiable Information, Protected Health Information; and other data requiring explicit CUI designation (i.e., For Official Use Only, Official Use Only, Law Enforcement Sensitive, Critical Infrastructure Information, and Sensitive Security Information).
Level 4 authorization accommodates CUI or other mission critical data, according to DISA. Level 5 accommodates CUI that requires a higher level of protection than that afforded by Level 4 as deemed necessary by the information owner, public law or other government regulations. Level 5 also supports unclassified National Security Systems (NSSs) due to the inclusion of NSS specific requirements in the FedRAMP +Control and Control Enhancements.


Microsoft has had to set up separate cloud infrastructure to achieve the certification. Keane noted that Information Impact Level 5 “requires processing in dedicated infrastructure that ensures physical separation of DOD customers from non-DoD customers.”
Keane added that DOD authorizing officials can use the Azure Government authorization “as a baseline for input into their authorization decisions on behalf of mission owner systems using the Azure Government cloud DOD Region.”
According to FCW, “the company said it has built multiple data centers to provide DOD with exclusive services for Azure and Office 365 U.S. Government Defense services.”
Over the past few months, Microsoft ran a preview program with more than 50 customers across the Pentagon, including all branches of the military, unified combatant commands and defense agencies.
“We are thrilled to announce the general availability of the DOD Region to all validated DoD customers,” Keane said. “Key services covering compute, storage, networking and database are available today with full service level agreements and dedicated Azure Government support.”
Katell Thielemann, research director for the public sector and U.S. federal government at Gartner, told MeriTalk that the approval is significant for both industry and the government “in that it sends a strong signal that companies like Microsoft are taking both security and Federal-specific requirements very seriously.”
“The FedRAMP and DISA review processes are stringent, lengthy, and costly. Federal agencies, and the DoD specifically, are looking for ways to leverage all the benefits of the cloud, but their mission environments demand high levels of data protection and security,” Thielemann said.

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