Dell EMC launched a ruggedized, field-deployable platform for Microsoft Azure Stack, unlocking new applications for government, military, energy, and mining. This is just one of Microsoft’s new cloud and edge capabilities that it announced today for its U.S. government customers.
Azure Stack is Microsoft’s hybrid cloud platform that brings the Azure cloud into an organization’s data center. Dell EMC already offers a hybrid cloud platform based on the Azure Stack that it launched in May 2017. The Dell EMC Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack allows companies to quickly deploy and manage applications across Azure public clouds and on-premises private clouds.
The new ruggedized Dell EMC platform, called the Dell EMC Tactical Microsoft Azure Stack, was built in partnership with Tracewell Designs. It brings the Azure cloud to operating environments where network connectivity is an issue; where mobility and high portability are required; in settings with harsh conditions that require military specifications solutions; and to environments with high security requirements.
It does this by extending core cloud services to the edge and making it possible to process data wherever it is needed. In fact, all of the tools Microsoft released today will enable customers to process and transfer data at the edge.
The Tactical Azure Stack also offers optional connectivity to Microsoft’s existing government products. This includes Azure Government, Azure Secret, and Azure Top Secret. Aside from government and military applications, the Tactical Stack can be used in forward deployments and mobile environments such as marine and aerospace settings.
It also offers automated patch and update capabilities, Dell EMC’s hardware management toolset, and integration with Isilon, CloudLink, and Pivotal Cloud Foundry.
The product will launch initially in the United States sometime in the first quarter of 2019, with availability to other countries releasing throughout the year.
Both the Tactical Azure Stack and Dell EMC’s Data Center Azure Stack have the same core components including the hardware lifecycle host, 25GbE Top of Rack switches, and a baseboard management switch.
Azure Data Box
In addition to the Dell EMC platform, Microsoft today announced an on-premises appliance with artificial intelligence-enabled edge compute features and a virtual storage appliance, both as part of its Azure Data Box family. These products are named Azure Data Box Edge and Azure Data Box Gateway, respectively.
According to a Microsoft blog announcing the Azure Data Box family, “these new systems offer unprecedented opportunities to expedite decision making and bring the power of cloud to areas far beyond the reach of a traditional data center.”
This is only the most recent in a number of product updates from Microsoft that are geared toward serving its government and military customers.
Last October, Microsoft updated its cloud platform to expand support for the federal government’s FedRAMP program to Microsoft’s public cloud regions. It currently supports 50 services at the FedRAMP Moderate level, with plans to push that to the FedRAMP High level by year-end. FedRAMP is a U.S. government program that connects security categorization with cloud providers’ offers.
At that time, Microsoft also said it would implement its Azure Government Secret program, which would allow classified information to be stored on Azure, during the beginning of 2019. And it expanded its Azure Reservations, which allows budgeting and forecasting of Azure payment options, to work with its government service.
Microsoft and the Government
These changes, updates, and product releases all come as Microsoft continues to await the selection of a cloud provider for the Defense Department’s $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud project. Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are considered the top contenders for the project as they both have strong government security credentials.
The JEDI project has been highly contested. Both IBM and Oracle filed bid protests against the contract, though IBM’s was rejected as Oracle continues its fight. Google did not make a bid for the contract citing ethical objections to the nature of the project. A number of Microsoft’s employees attempted to protest JEDI, but to no avail as the company bid anyway.
Microsoft already has won a number of government contracts. Last year, it won a $34.4 million contract with the U.S. Air Force; Microsoft and Dell Technologies signed a six-year cloud contract with the U.S. Intelligence Community; and in 2017, Microsoft, Dell EMC, and defense contractor General Dynamics scored a $1 billion contract with the U.S. Air Force.