Microsoft this week said it has built two new Azure Government Secret data centers as it prepares to battle Amazon for the Pentagon’s $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract.
The new data centers, currently in private preview and pending accreditation, are designed specifically for the U.S. federal civil service, the Department of Defense (DoD), the intelligence community, and U.S. government partners in secret enclaves.
“Developed using the same foundational principles and architecture as Azure commercial cloud, the Azure Government Secret regions are built to maintain the security and integrity of classified workloads while enabling fast access to sensitive, mission-critical information,” Lily Kim, general manager of Microsoft’s Azure government unit, wrote in a blog post.
These regions are compliant with the requirements for DoD impact level 6 (IL6) and the Director of National Intelligence’s intelligence community directive (ICD 503) accreditation. IL6 involves classified information up to a secret level of data and ICD 503 acts as guidance for the risk management and certification of information systems across the intelligence community.
Microsoft’s Azure Government secret data centers will be operated by two separate Azure regions located more than 500 miles apart and by government-cleared U.S. citizens, according to Microsoft. The regions will provide Infrastructure-,Platform-, and Software-as-a-Service offerings, other Azure Marketplace services, and options for private, resilient, and high-bandwidth connectivity.
The cloud provider also updated all of its existing Azure Government data centers to achieve compliance for DoD impact level 5 (IL5) data, which is controlled unclassified information that requires a higher level of protection. This, Microsoft claims, gives it more Platform-as-a-Service features and services at IL5 than any of the other cloud providers, though it does still appear to be playing catch-up a bit.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) also has a number of services and data centers that support IL5 and IL6. It has two AWS Gov Cloud regions based in the eastern and western regions of the country, both of which are compliant with IL3, IL4, and IL5. And in November 2017, it launched an AWS Secret Region that meets the requirements for IL6 workloads.
In the blog post Kim also explained that the company is working on releasing new Blueprint services for Azure Government support in FedRAMP, its security standard for U.S. government services, and DoD security requirements. Blueprint is Azure’s compliance management and enforcement service.
These Azure Government updates are just the most recent in a series of government services that Microsoft has launched during its bid for the JEDI contract.
Who Will Be the Last JEDI Standing?
Earlier this month, it was reported that the Pentagon narrowed down the finalists for the JEDI contract to Amazon and Microsoft.
The companies have long been the top contenders for the bid as both have obtained the necessary high-level federal security clearances, and have stronger government offerings among the contending cloud providers.
In October 2018, Microsoft made a number of updates to its government cloud offerings, including expanded support for the federal government’s FedRAMP program in Microsoft’s public cloud regions.
Not everyone at Microsoft is thrilled with the company’s big push and bid for the contract — hours before the company submitted its bid a number of Microsoft employees posted a letter protesting the move. Later that month, the company offered alternative employment options to employees that oppose the bid.