February 24, 2010 By Chad Vander Veen
REDMOND, Wash. -- Government cloud computing continues to move away from the theoretical and toward the practical as Microsoft announced Wednesday, Feb. 24, the launch of a dedicated government cloud based on the company's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). The announcement was made at the company's annual U.S. Public Sector CIO Summit.
The cloud offering, known as BPOS Federal, was designed to meet stringent security standards, said Gail Thomas-Flynn, Microsoft's vice president for state and local government. BPOS Federal, she said, is expected to attain Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification. In a speech Wednesday, corporate vice president Ron Markezich said FISMA certification is expected in six months.
Thomas-Flynn also said the suite will be compliant with International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITARS), meaning physical access to systems will be controlled by biometrics and limited to U.S. citizens who have undergone an extensive background investigation.
"Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite will now offer unmatched capabilities for our government customers and their unique needs," said Curt Kolcun, vice president of Microsoft U.S. Public Sector. "The enhancements we're introducing today and over the next six months raise the bar on security and privacy."
What makes BPOS different, Thomas-Flynn said, is that it was built using a hybrid model that allows users to place some data on premises and some in the cloud, depending on their needs and preferences.
According to Stuart McKee (pictured), Microsoft's U.S. national technology officer, this hybrid cloud is part of what he called "the Microsoft road map." McKee said this road map is a process of offering government customers more choice and flexibility that he believes will lead customers to see Microsoft as a trustworthy industry partner.
This development is part of a larger Microsoft push into cloud services, most notably via Windows Azure, the company's cloud services platform.
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.