The bids for the $10 billion Department of Defense cloud computing contract are due by the end of the week, and Microsoft laid out its case for that business Tuesday in a blog post that highlighted its ability to secure the most sensitive government applications.
By the end of the first quarter of next year, Microsoft will have completed its work on Azure Government Secret, first announced last year. At that point, Azure Government Secret will support “Secret U.S. classified data or Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Impact Level 6 workloads,” and support for Top Secret workloads will follow soon after, said Julia White, corporate vice president for Microsoft Azure, in the post.
These certifications are a big deal in the world of government cloud computing, and they are one of the reasons Google dropped out of the running for the JEDI contract Monday. It takes time to win the trust of federal regulators tasked with evaluating these services, and both Microsoft and Amazon Web Services have been working with government customers for several years on obtaining the relevant certifications.
But FedRAMP certifications are just the starting point for vendors that want to compete for the Pentagon contract, which will transform the military’s information technology infrastructure over a ten-year period. A single vendor will be asked to do all of the work, which has ruffled the feathers of niche cloud players like Oracle and IBM that wanted to compete for parts of the business.
Given that insistence on a single vendor, only AWS and Microsoft are thought to have the right certifications and technology depth to really compete. White laid out Microsoft’s case in a nearly 1,000-word prelude to the company’s announcement of the new cloud certifications, leaning heavily on the “intelligent cloud and intelligent edge” mantra that has defined the Satya Nadella era of Microsoft.
“Other cloud vendors claim support for cloud/edge computing with servers that run VMs or containers. 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,” White wrote.
Based on that, it sounds like Microsoft’s bid for the DoD work will treat soldiers and military vehicles on the battlefield as the ultimate edge computing devices, able to gather and process some data on their own but with a need for a secure cloud in the rear to complete the picture.
“These connected systems and devices will help government agencies across a huge array of mission goals, such as tracking water quality, improving emergency management, speeding maintenance of vital equipment, and bringing insight into complex real-world logistics problems,” she wrote.
Microsoft also pointed out that the Azure Data Box family of storage devices it highlighted at Inspire last month will be soon available for government customers. These devices let customers quickly upload data into a storage container that can be transported back to an Azure data center much more quickly than sending that data over the internet.
The company also announced Azure Reservations, which will let government customers sign up for one-year or three-year blocks of cloud services to fix their costs in place for an extended period of time.