Microsoft seeks agency try-outs for government cloud platform

hands and cloud

Microsoft is looking for a few federal agencies to stress-test the government-centric cloud platform the company unveiled last fall.

The software giant wants agencies to test its Azure for Government cloud hosting platform as the offering awaits formal FedRAMP authorizations. Azure for Government, said Microsoft Chief Security Officer for Federal Mark Williams, is aimed at civilian and defense agencies looking to boost efficiency -- reducing the number of data centers and shortening patch intervals, for example -- without compromising security.

Azure for Government does not yet have FedRAMP authority to operate (ATO), unlike the already-approved commercial version of the platform, which took about seven months to win FedRAMP ATO from federal agencies. Williams expects about the same amount of time for Azure for Government to get an ATO.

In an October blog post, Microsoft Federal Chief Technology Advisor Susie Adams said the Azure government cloud would feature physical, network and logical isolation, with two specially-constructed data centers with logical, physical and network isolation from Azure Public Cloud.

The supporting facilities for the federal cloud, including all data, hardware, and supporting systems will be in the continental United States, with data residing on servers that contain data only from other U.S. federal, state and local government customers.

According to Williams, Azure's capabilities fit well with federal agencies’ push to drive more business sense into their operations.

"It allows us to build in features that allow new capabilities to be added automatically," he said. For instance, the two to four weeks it can take to add security patch updates to more traditional systems can be added almost instantly with the platform.

Williams said Microsoft has already talked with a number of federal customers, but is still taking on agencies for the test. Those interested can contact the company at to participate.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a staff writer at FCW.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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