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Microsoft to open new Azure regions in Australia in public sector push

Hosted by Canberra Data Centres, Microsoft’s additional Azure datacentre regions will provide the necessary security controls for handling government data in Australia

Microsoft will open two regions for its Azure cloud computing service in Australia that will handle protected and unclassified government data, making it the latest IT supplier to cash in on the country’s digital transformation efforts.

Earlier in May 2017, the Australian government said it will spend A$129.6m over three years to upgrade outdated computer systems across government agencies, which have been required to adopt cloud where it is fit for purpose, provides adequate data protection of data and delivers value for money under the government’s cloud computing policy.

Microsoft said the Azure regions, when ready by the first half of 2018 in Australia’s capital Canberra, will “accelerate the digital transformation of the Australian government at federal, state and local levels”. Services will be delivered through datacentres operated by Australian-owned Canberra Data Centres (CDC).

According to Microsoft, the CDC facilities are the only private datacentres in Australia with controls at the personnel, physical, information and governance levels required for handling government data. Government agencies using the Intra Government Communications Network can directly connect to Azure in Canberra.

The security controls also reflect the “whole-of-nation approach to the protection of national critical infrastructure that the Australian government is driving through the National Cybersecurity Strategy,” said Microsoft.

Angus Taylor, Australia’s minister for cities and digital transformation, said the new Azure regions will create “an essential foundation” in efforts to transform Australia’s public sector to ensure it meets the needs of citizens.

Local software suppliers can also build their skills and innovate rapidly to meet local needs before expanding into global markets, he added.

To Keiran Mott, CEO of IT service provider Veritec, the Azure regions will alleviate any security concerns with the cloud. “There’s a tremendous desire all across government to get on with delivering real innovation and taking advantage of all the cloud has to offer. Perception of security has been a blocker in the past. With this news, it’s not anymore,” he said.

Read more about government IT in Australia

In May 2017, the Australian government said it will spend an extra A$10.6m to ensure public sector IT systems are developed with cyber security as a priority. In June 2017, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) included 52 Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Office 365 services in its certified cloud services list.

Australian government agencies can use outsourced cloud services on that list, but they must also review potential financial, privacy, data ownership, data sovereignty and legal risks, according to the ASD.

Although most organisations in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) are still trying to understand how cloud services can help them achieve cost reduction and business agility, they still lead the Asia-Pacific region in cloud maturity, according to IDC.

“There are significant challenges to reaching the most optimised levels of cloud adoption,” said Prabhitha Dcruz, senior market analyst for cloud services at IDC Australia.

“These challenges require strategic discussions between organisation executives, business leaders, and their IT counterparts to fully understand the transformative potential that cloud can deliver. Not surprisingly, only a small number of ANZ organizations are leading the way to the transformational adoption of cloud today,” she said.

Read more on Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)