Microsoft has unveiled plans to launch two highly-secure Azure regions in Canberra, partnering with Canberra Data Centres (CDC) to lure government agencies to the cloud.
Available in the first half of 2018, the two new regions will focus on government and their suppliers at federal, state and local levels, offering advanced data analytics, sophisticated data protections and artificial intelligence.
Complementing Microsoft’s existing cloud presence in Sydney and Melbourne, the two new regions allows the vendor to deliver hyper-scale cloud services to handle unclassified and protected government data.
“Less than three years ago, we launched our first cloud services from an Australian data centre,” Microsoft Azure engineering lead for Australia James Kavanagh said.
“Since then, we’ve worked to lead the way in delivering trusted innovation to our customers and partners, which has at times meant the hard work of undertaking very onerous compliance processes.
“We’ve taken on that effort to reduce the work our partners and customers must do themselves thus accelerating their ability to adopt innovation.”
According to Canberra-based Kavanagh, such an approach has led the Australian Signals Directorate to certify a total of 52 services across Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 – “far more than all other cloud services combined”.
“Globally we have over 60 compliance certifications and attestations making Azure the truly trusted cloud for government,” he added.
“Today is a big step forward and another first – progressing to deliver our hyper-scale cloud for both unclassified and protected data from facilities designed for the handling of even top secret classified data and surrounded by an ecosystem that can drive real outcomes for government.
“We’re confident these two new regions and the services provided will satisfy requirements for unclassified and protected data. And that confidence comes from the simple fact we’ve already completed assessments under the Independent Registered Assessors Program (IRAP) for services in Sydney and Melbourne.”
In reviewing those services, Kavanagh said IRAP assessors delivered a “positive finding” in favour of certification at protected level earlier this year.
“We’re still working to finalise this certification process with Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) and for clarity it is important to be aware that Microsoft Azure is not certified at protected level by ASD,” he added. “We still have work to do, but the pathway is understood.”
Through partnering with CDC, Microsoft is leveraging two campuses that are the only private data centre facilities in Australia with the security controls and accreditations capable of handling of top secret government data.
Delving deeper, the concentration of secure connectivity including the Intra Government Communications Network (ICON) at CDC stands to provide an added benefit for government agencies with secure, highly cost-effective network access to Microsoft Azure.
“We’ve built Canberra Data Centres from the ground-up over 10 years with a singular purpose to be the most trusted, flexible and resilient platform for government innovation,” CDC CEO Greg Boorer added.
“But more important than building and operating facilities that are now widely regarded as some of the most modern and secure in Australia, has been the creation of an ecosystem of customers and partners that thrive together.
“Our strategic partnership is about combining the local ecosystem and our own expertise with the global innovation and open ecosystem of Microsoft.”
Building a foundation of trust
The news follows June’s announcement when the ASD formally certified a greatly expanded range of Azure and Office 365 services for inclusion on the ASD Certified Cloud Services List.
In July, Microsoft bolstered its hybrid capabilities through the launch of Azure Stack, designed to offer an extension of Microsoft Azure that provides public cloud capabilities to an on-premise or hosted environment.
“Across our nation, we see government, healthcare and education organisations all driving forward with their digital transformation initiatives,” Microsoft Australia managing director Steven Worrall added.
“We hear from them the need for Microsoft to deliver rapid innovation and unleash the possibilities and creativity that only the cloud can provide. But also, to do that in a way that provides the highest levels of assurance in security, privacy and resilience.”
As a result, Worrall said Microsoft’s expansion into Canberra represents the first opportunity for public cloud services from a major provider to be located in the same highly secure facilities as some of the nation’s most sensitive data.
Specifically, the two new regions are intended to serve data classified as either protected or unclassified - featuring dissemination limiting markers (DLM).
“We’re listening and today’s announcement shows Microsoft is committed to delivering both the innovation and the trusted platform our customers and partners demand,” he added.