Microsoft courts US government cloud users with Azure Stack integration promise

Microsoft is stepping up its efforts to get the US government using its cloud in anger, with the promise of a forthcoming Azure Stack integration and new datacentre regions to house “secret” classified data

Microsoft is ramping up its efforts to get more public sector users to adopt cloud through the release of a government-focused version of its Azure Stack technology in the US.

The software giant has outlined plans to integrate its hybrid cloud-enabling Azure Stack product with its Azure Government public cloud offering in due course.

Launched in September 2017, Azure Stack is designed to allow organisations to run Microsoft public cloud services in their own datacentres.

The latest move means public sector users of the Azure Government cloud will soon be able to use Azure Stack to move their data, applications and workloads between their on-premise datacentres and the Microsoft cloud with greater ease.

Agencies can continue to leverage their existing infrastructure and share data seamlessly across platforms, easily integrating with next-generation services and innovating rapidly,” wrote Tom Keane, head of global infrastructure at Microsoft Azure, in a blog post.

“Azure Stack will integrate with Azure Government, enabling consistent connections to Azure Government across identity, subscription, billing, backup and disaster recovery, and the Azure Marketplace.”

“Azure Stack will also enable government customers to seamlessly use and move amongst public, government-only and on-premise cloud environments to rapidly respond to geopolitical developments and cyber security threats,” he wrote.

Along with the Azure Stack news, Microsoft has also committed to expanding its Azure Government cloud by opening two additional regions for data classified as “secret”, meaning it now operates a total of eight regions specifically targeted for use by federal agencies.

According to Microsoft, more than 7,000 US federal, state and local government customers make use of its cloud services.

Computer Weekly contacted Microsoft for comment on whether it plans to follow a similar product and service strategy to ramp up adoption of its offering in the UK public sector, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

The company has operated a UK datacentre since late 2016, and – at the time of its opening – confirmed the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Maudsley NHS Trust as being among the first tranche of UK public sector users to access Azure cloud services from it.

For the analyst community, the opening of UK datacentres by Microsoft, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google was considered an important step in encouraging greater cloud adoption by the public sector, as many cited a preference for using locally hosted services.

The Azure Stack portion of the Microsoft news comes hot on the heels of UK-based, public sector-focused service provider UKCloud outlining its plans to offer similar functionality, run out of the same datacentres used by the Cabinet Office’s Crown Hosting Service.

The Cisco-based Azure Stack offered by UKCloud is, the company claims, the only one designed to specifically cater to the needs of public sector users, as it features connections to several core government networks, including RLI, N3/HSCN and PSN Protected.

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