Microsoft bolstered its Azure cloud in a move that could help the computing giant snatch a $10 billion cloud contract from the Pentagon. The move comes as rival Google said it will not bid on the contract leaving Amazon and Microsoft as the two leading candidates for the 10-year, single-vendor deal.
Julia White, corporate vice president for Microsoft Azure, in a blog post did not specifically mention the pending U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud computing contract. But she did note moves to simplify the company’s approach to regulatory compliance.
The updates include expanding its support for the federal government’s FedRAMP program to Microsoft’s public cloud regions. The company currently supports 50 services at the FedRAMP Moderate level, with plans to push that to the FedRAMP High level by year-end.
White noted that Microsoft “continues to support more services at both FedRAMP Moderate and FedRAMP High impact levels than any other cloud provider.”
“This means Azure public regions in the continental United States will support FedRAMP High applications for U.S. government agencies who are allowed by regulation to host their information in the public cloud this year,” White wrote.
The federal government set up the FedRAMP program as a way for cloud service providers to understand the impact level of their offerings connected with a security categorization when developing their authorization strategy. The three FedRAMP levels are low, moderate, and high, and are ranked based on the level of confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the cloud service.
White also noted that Microsoft is on track to implement its previously announced Azure Government Secret program by early next year. That program will allow classified DoD and intelligence community information to be stored in the Azure cloud.
And to make it easier for federal agencies to spend that $10 billion, Microsoft expanded its Azure Reservations product to work with its Azure Government service. Reservations provides a template for budgeting and forecasting Azure payment options.
Reach to the Edge
The increased security support will also allow government agencies to take advantage of Microsoft’s recently announced cloud and edge services. These include the Azure Digital Twins service for application development and Azure IoT Central that is a fully managed IoT software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform.
Digital twins are software models of physical items. This allows for the ability to model and monitor a physical item in real-time without actually touching the current status of that item. Microsoft’s Digitial Twins service uses the Azure IoT Hub platform to connect IoT devices and sensors that keep the digital model up to date with the physical world. This allows users to manage the digital model using event-driven and serverless methods that can then be transferred to the physical environment.
The Azure IoT Central platform allows for the provisioning of IoT devices and services within hours and includes analytics and bulk device management capabilities.
White wrote that Microsoft trumps its rivals in terms of support for these use cases tied to government agencies.
“Other cloud vendors claim support for cloud/edge computing with servers that run VMs or containers,” White noted. “However, this approach doesn’t recognize the massive diversity of edge devices and use cases, nor provides the consistent approach across app model, management, and security that government solutions require.”
Microsoft’s government efforts have produced financially lucrative fruit.
The company last month won a $34.4 million contract to provide enterprise IT-as-a-service to a handful of U.S. Air Force bases.
In May, Microsoft and Dell Technologies scored a six-year cloud contract “worth potentially hundreds of millions of dollars” with the U.S. Intelligence Community, a multi-agency group made up of 17 government organizations.
With Google out of the picture, Microsoft is considered the only viable competitor to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for the JEDI contract. IBM and Oracle are also seen as potential contenders, though AWS and Microsoft are viewed as having stronger government security credentials.