• 10 min read

Enabling intelligent cloud and intelligent edge solutions for government

We are going through a technology transformation that is unlocking new mission scenarios for government agencies that were simply not possible before.

We are going through a technology transformation that is unlocking new mission scenarios for government agencies that were simply not possible before. Smart sensors and connected devices are changing the way agencies approach problems from equipment maintenance to measuring air quality, smart cities to military outposts, while new devices are increasingly cloud connected by default – whether it’s a traffic light or a rescue vehicle.

Simultaneously, hybrid cloud is evolving from being the integration of a datacenter with the public cloud, to becoming units of computing available at even the world’s most remote destinations working in concert with public cloud. Now, more than ever before, government can bring the power of cloud to missions around the globe.

Bring these two technology trends together, with AI running across all systems, and we enter the era of the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge. And while we expect every industry to benefit as these technologies advance, the work of government in particular will be changed by the ability to plan farther, gather information more efficiently, and deliver insight where it is needed most.
The intelligent cloud is ubiquitous computing enabled by public cloud and powered with AI. In this way, we refer to Azure as the world’s computer, powering every type of intelligent application and system our customers envision across all industries.

The intelligent edge is the continually expanding set of connected systems and devices that gather and analyze information close to the physical world where data resides, to deliver real-time insights and immersive experiences that are highly responsive and contextually aware. These connected systems and devices will help government agencies across a huge array of mission goals, such as tracking water quality, improving emergency management, speeding maintenance of vital equipment, and bringing insight into complex real-world logistics problems.

Enabling intelligent cloud and intelligent edge solutions requires a new class of distributed, connected applications and will ultimately deliver break-through outcomes across every aspect of citizen services, military operations, and overall mission impact. These cloud/edge applications are built as a single solution yet run in a distributed fashion – optimized to take advantage of both robust cloud capabilities and edge locality. At the edge, the application is contextually aware and can run in both connected and disconnected states. For agencies operating outside the continental United States, where the network may be unreliable or less secure, the option to transition between connected and disconnected states will dramatically expand options for using technology to address local problems.

While the era of intelligent cloud and intelligent edge is new, the approach to building and running solutions that take advantage of this architecture is based on enduring principles. Fundamentally, a cloud/edge application must be developed and run as a single environment from the application services to AI to security and management.
Today, I’d like to share with you how we’re building Azure cloud/edge capabilities aligned with a set of core principles for robust technology solutions, while uniquely delivering consistency across the cloud and the edge:

  • Consistent app platform across cloud and edge. We’ve built Azure to provide consistency in programming models, data services, AI and DevOps to simplify cloud/edge application development and ensure on-going application management is efficient. Consistency means that you build once and run in multiple environments, from the cloud to servers in embassies or devices in remote outposts.
  • Holistic security. Evolving cybersecurity threats are of constant concern to any government agency. To provide security across the cloud/edge application, Azure Security Center provides unified security management and advanced threat protection for systems running in cloud and on the edge. We also recognize that cloud and edge environments have different security risks, so we have built additional protections including Azure Sphere’s ground-breaking security for MCU-based edge devices.
  • Single identity management. Providing single identity controls across the cloud/edge application is necessary to secure and manage applications wherever they reside. Azure Active Directory provides unified identity management and conditional access across the cloud and edge, providing protection from unauthorized access to apps and data wherever it resides. For agencies handling more data, and more sensitive data, than ever before, simplified identity management is a key aspect of ensuring that the right protections are always in place.  
  • Artificial Intelligence. Tapping into the contextual insight from the edge provides Machine Learning models more robust data and thus better results. Azure enables you to combine data in the cloud and from the edge to develop ML models. Then, the same ML models developed and tested in Azure can be distributed to run across a massive set of certified devices running with Azure IoT Edge.
  • Comprehensive intelligent edge portfolio to meet every need. While Azure provides a robust set of cloud services and edge devices, we know the diversity at the edge will only grow. This is why we are equally investing with the ecosystem of ISVs, SIs, and solution providers to ensure you have the right edge solution for your unique business. Azure will continue to push the boundaries of the market, as we’ve done with Azure Stack that is both cloud and edge, to Azure Sphere that provides unparalleled security for MCU based devices. 

Other cloud vendors claim support for cloud/edge computing with servers that run VMs or containers. However, this approach doesn’t recognize the massive diversity of edge devices and use cases, nor provides the consistent approach across app model, management and security that government solutions require.

Enabling the mission end to end 

To further enable the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge approach, we are announcing a number of new Azure capabilities for government today. In the past six months we have added over 40 services and features to Azure Government, as well as publishing a new roadmap for the Azure Government regions providing ongoing transparency into our upcoming releases. Moving forward, we are simplifying our approach to regulatory compliance for federal agencies, so that our government customers can gain access to innovation more rapidly. In addition, we are adding new options for buying and onboarding cloud services to make it easier to move to the cloud. Finally, we are bringing an array of new hybrid and edge capabilities to government to ensure that government customers have full access to the technology of the intelligent edge and intelligent cloud era.

Expanded FedRAMP coverage for Azure, for broadest support in the industry

Microsoft is announcing the expansion of our FedRAMP Moderate coverage for our public cloud regions. A total of 50 services are now available, creating new opportunities across a broad array of federal agencies. Additionally, by the end of the calendar year Microsoft will enhance the impact level for our public cloud regions, and specifically for these 50 services, from FedRAMP Moderate to FedRAMP High. Microsoft continues to support more services at both FedRAMP Moderate and FedRAMP High impact levels than any other cloud provider. By taking the broadest regulatory compliance approach in the industry, we’re making commercial innovation more accessible and easier for government to adopt. This means Azure public regions in the continental United States will support FedRAMP High applications for U.S. Government agencies who are allowed by regulation to host their information in the public cloud this year. For those government agencies with citizenship requirements and more controlled access to certain types of data, Azure Government will continue to offer services at FedRAMP High, with the addition of the government cloud guarantees around heightened screening of personnel, management exclusively by U.S. citizens, and other important protections.

Azure Government Secret regions available in Q1 2019

Last October, we announced Azure Government Secret and the expansion of our mission-critical cloud with new regions enabled for Secret U.S. classified data or Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Impact Level 6 workloads. We are making major progress in delivering this cloud designed to meet the regulatory and compliance requirements of the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community. Today, we are announcing these newest regions will be available by the end of the first quarter of 2019. In addition, to meet the growing demand and requirements of the U.S. Government, we are confirming our intent to deliver Azure Government services to meet the highest classification requirements, with capabilities for handling Top Secret U.S. classified data. 

Azure Data Box, Data Box Edge, and Data Box Heavy available for government customers

In late September, we announced the extension of the Data Box family of products to include new offerings designed to make it easier to bring data to Azure. Making data migration easy and secure is a high priority across industries, but it is particularly important for government agencies who may have mission needs in environments where connectivity and cloud access are limited or unavailable. Azure Data Box Edge, a new product to transport data in and out of Azure, is now available in public preview. Azure Data Box Edge enables you to pre-process data at the edge and also move data to Azure efficiently. Azure Data Box Edge uses advanced FPGA hardware natively integrated into the appliance to run machine learning inference algorithms at the edge efficiently. The size and portability allow you to run Azure Data Box Edge as close to users, apps and data as needed. Azure Data Box Heavy offers expanded capacity. The rugged, secure, tamper-resistant appliance contains 1 petabyte of storage for transporting customer data to an Azure datacenter. By bringing the full range of Data Box offerings to our government customers, we expect to enable critical mission scenarios requiring analysis of larger volumes of data, wherever that data is gathered.

Simplifying access to the cloud

To help government agencies take advantage of cloud services rapidly and with minimal friction, we are announcing Azure Reservations now available for Azure Government. Azure Reservations enable you to budget and forecast more easily with up-front payment for one and three-year terms. Enhanced deployment support with Azure Fast Track for Government gives you access to design and architecture planning, as well as configuration of services, all based out of offices in Washington, D.C.

From the state and local level, to every military branch and the largest federal cabinet agencies, our more than 10,000 U.S. Government customers are using Azure to achieve their unique and complex missions.

Joining forces to provide a trusted path to digital transformation with SAP

Microsoft and SAP are partnering to bring the power of SAP HANA to federal government and regulated industry customers. SAP NS2’s Secure HANA Cloud, now available on Microsoft Azure Government, allows customers to leverage the latest in cloud innovation in a secure, compliant infrastructure built to handle advanced workloads. Government agencies receive secure cloud managed services and product expertise from SAP NS2 delivered through the Secure HANA Cloud with Azure Government. The partnership opens a secure, trusted way forward for federal agencies and regulated industries to move mission-critical applications to the cloud in a secure cloud infrastructure.

Accelerating innovation in Aerospace and Defense with L3

L3 Technologies has chosen Azure Government as its primary cloud platform for expanding data analytics capabilities, optimizing IT operations and delivering greater value to its customers. L3 is taking a strategic approach to the cloud, running Tier 1 workloads like SAP on Azure Government, for greater data-driven agility and speed in developing new technologies. Among the innovations enabled by this industry collaboration, L3 expects to bring advanced compute capabilities to the edge, distill actionable insights for increasing volumes of data and deliver innovative predictive maintenance solutions.

Expanding horizons for mission applications using data and AI, with Booz Allen Hamilton

Booz Allen Hamilton is partnering with Microsoft to change the paradigm for defense and intelligence customers. The joint Center of Excellence for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for the Intelligence Community will provide tools, techniques and expertise to help solve mission-critical cybersecurity and intelligence challenges. Leveraging Azure Government’s innovation across hybrid, elastic compute and hyperscale, and Booz Allen Hamilton’s deep understanding of the uniquely complex intelligence environments, the partnership will support the development of new cloud solutions and expand the horizons for mission applications enabled by AI. 

Advancing mission capabilities from headquarters to the edge with GDIT

Microsoft provides the latest in technology platform and services to advance digital transformation – from GPU-accelerated, large-scale analytics to seamless collaboration tools. For General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT), collaborating with Microsoft is the next step in its effort to modernize the workplace for the federal government. GDIT brings deep domain expertise across mission services, which when delivered on Microsoft Azure Government’s innovative and intelligent cloud, advances the customer’s capabilities all the way from headquarters to the tactical edge.

Intelligent edge and intelligent cloud innovation

Bringing commercial innovation to government remains one of our highest priorities. As we expand support for FedRAMP High in our public regions, even more government customers will be able to take advantage of new services from the cloud to the edge. The new edge capabilities we announced for enterprise in late September offer transformational opportunities for government as well.

  • Azure Digital Twins. This brand-new Azure service enables you to create a comprehensive digital model of any physical environment. This includes a model of people, places and things as well as the relationships and processes that bind them. And, this digital model isn’t just a static experience. Azure Digital Twins connects the digital model directly with the devices and sensors in the physical world to keep the digital model always up-to-date.
  • Azure IoT Edge extended offline. To address the ever-expanding use cases at the edge, we are adding the capability for IoT devices to operate disconnected from the internet for extended periods with the public preview of Azure IoT Edge extended offline capability.
  • Azure IoT Central. Azure IoT Central is a fully managed global IoT SaaS (software-as-a-service) solution that makes it easy to connect, monitor, and manage your IoT assets at scale. This means you can bring your connected products to market faster and provide new value add services to your connection solution.
  • Azure Sphere preview. In February 2018, we announced Azure Sphere, a new solution for creating highly-secured, internet-connected microcontroller (MCU) devices running on the edge. We have now entered the next phase with Azure Sphere dev kit and public preview of the Azure Sphere OS, Azure Sphere Security Service, and developer tools available.
  • Azure Stack. We began shipping our first Azure Stack systems a year ago and we have seen amazing solutions built by our customers to address disconnected and compliance use-cases. We have regularly released new services to run on Azure Stack. Our recent announcement is that Azure Event Hubs will also be coming to Azure Stack. With Azure Event Hubs on Azure Stack, customers can run cloud-style telemetry ingestion from websites, apps, and any streams of data.

The intelligent cloud and intelligent edge make it possible to provide consistent power to critical institutions like hospitals and schools, manage precious resources like energy, food and water, as well as helping government improve citizen services.

To learn more about Azure Government, read our blog.

To get started with Azure Government get your trial today!