Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Wednesday, July 24, 2024

‘Secret’ Azure Cloud Advances as JEDI Looms 

Just in time to take on cloud rival Amazon Web Services for a huge Pentagon cloud contract, Microsoft announced new Azure cloud regions and expanded DoD certifications that would allow it to handle government data classified as secret.

Microsoft and AWS are the last two bidders standing for a $10 billion winner-take-all JEDI cloud contract. DoD announced in early April that the two leading cloud providers were the only bidders meeting “minimum requirements” for JEDI, which stands for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure.

Microsoft NASDAQ: MSFT) said Wednesday (April 17) it had achieved a pair of DoD certification milestones required for cloud vendors to handle data classified as “secret” or higher. The cloud vendor announced two new Azure “government secret” regions currently under review in advance of accreditation. If approved at DoD’s “Impact Level 6,” Azure would be certified to handle classified data and workloads up to the “secret” level.

As it targets government cloud contracts like JEDI, Microsoft stressed flexibility along with its huge installed base of Windows platforms. 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,” the cloud vendor noted in a blog post.

The two secret Azure regions in the U.S. are located more than 500 miles apart to ensure availability and disaster recovery. They are linked to classified U.S. networks via “secure, native connections,” the company said.

The Defense Department previously granted Microsoft Azure provisional authority to handle classified workloads at a lower level known as DoD “Impact Level 5.” The company said it would expand that authority across all Azure government cloud regions. That move would expand the range of platform services Microsoft can deliver to federal customers, including development tools for cloud apps running on a managed platform.

The expansion would also provide access to cloud platforms such as Azure SQL database and SQL server engine.

AWS (NASDAQ: AMZN) previously added a “secret” region to its portfolio of data classifications for U.S. government workloads as part of its $600 million Commercial Cloud Services contract awarded in 2014 by the CIA. Amazon became the first cloud service provider accredited to handle classified DoD workloads up to “top secret.”

Having survived a series of protests and a federal lawsuit, AWS and Microsoft are now vying for the JEDI cloud contract expected to be awarded as early as this summer.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).