Microsoft fires a shot across AWS' bow with launch of Azure Stack for government customers

Microsoft releases its Azure Stack today, which provides secure hybrid cloud capabilities to government agencies. (Pixabay)

Microsoft announced today that its Azure Stack, which was designed to work with hybrid clouds, is now available for its Azure Government customers.

Back in March, Microsoft announced its plan to integrate Azure Stack with a government-only cloud offering for governmental agencies as well as access to Azure Marketplace.

According to an article by TechCrunch, Microsoft's Azure Stack announcement was well-timed in its effort beat out Amazon Web Services and other cloud providers to land the Department of Defense's $10 billion cloud contract that's known as JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure).

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The Pentagon is seeking one vendor to manage its cloud needs, and has an RFP out for Jedi. TechCrunch reported that Microsoft, Oracle and IBM have complained that the one-vendor contract was weighted in favor of Amazon. Those vendors have petitioned the Pentagon to go with a multivendor approach to JEDI to avoid vendor lock-in and spur more innovation, but so far the Pentagon is sticking with its one-vendor plan.

Related: Walmart, Microsoft are teaming up to take on Amazon

Azure Stack gives government agencies access to services and applications, such as identity subscription, registration, billing, backup and disaster recovery across public and private clouds, according to a blog post today by Natalia Mackevicius, program director, Microsoft Azure Stack.

"Azure Stack is an extension of Azure, and government customers can leverage these powerful hybrid capabilities to bring core and advanced cloud services to the edge, whether it's field office, tank or aircraft," she wrote. "With Azure Stack, it becomes possible to process data in the field without worrying about latency or internet connectivity, and then run aggregated analytics in Azure Government to get the most precise predictions and anomaly detections. In each of the scenarios, a hybrid cloud extends from enterprise to the tactical edge, which can be connected or offline or disconnected environments."

Mackevicius said Azure Stack users are able to tap into the same infrastructure and services that are available in Azure, which include APIs, DevOps tools and portals.

"Government customers can use a combination of Azure Stack and Azure Government to support the full-spectrum of unclassified and classified data and special access programs and to support various data export policies, or seamlessly move between government cloud and on-premises environments," according to Mackevicius. "Taking this product news a step further, we’ve also successfully completed a rigorous third party assessment and can now offer our government customers all the necessary documentation to expedite FedRAMP High certification for their workloads running on Azure Stack."

FedRAMP is a government program that provides guidelines for security requirements needed to protect some of the government’s most sensitive, unclassified data in cloud computing environments.

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