Microsoft built a new cloud service to protect agencies’ data classified as “top secret,” the company announced Monday.
Azure Government Top Secret regions provide the same capabilities as Azure commercial, Azure Government and Azure Government Secret, just at a higher level of security.
The new cloud option affords agencies that manage sensitive data — the compromise of which would cause exceptionally grave damage to national security — more flexibility in modernizing their legacy information technology systems.
“The broad range of services will meet the demand for greater agility in the classified space, including the need to gain deeper insights from data sourced from any location, as well as the need to enable the rapid expansion of remote work,” wrote Tom Keane, corporate vice president of Azure Global, in a blog post.
Amazon Web Services launched the first top secret region for federal agencies in 2014, but that didn’t stop the Department of Defense from awarding its $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract to Microsoft twice now. AWS continues to protest the award in court, but Monday’s announcement could be used to argue Microsoft is keeping pace with leading industry standards.
Earlier this month, DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy said the 2018 JEDI contract requires “commercial parity,” so Microsoft’s latest advancement will be available to the Pentagon.
Azure is working with the government on Top Secret’s accreditation. It’s unclear when it will be authorized for use.
Top Secret addresses several compliance requirements including Intelligence Community Directive (ICD) 503, which remains in progress; ICD 705; and Joint Special Implementation Guide (Protection Level-3) accreditation.