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Microsoft follows Amazon in gaining critical US gov certification

Redmond zooms onto FedRAMP, but where's Google?

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Microsoft has gained a US federal government certification that makes it easier for agencies to buy cloud services from Redmond.

The company announced on Monday that the platform-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service components of its Windows Azure cloud have been given a Joint Authorization Board (JAB) provisional version of the FedRAMP certification.

FedRAMP "is a government-wide, standardized approach to security assessments and ongoing assessments and authorizations (continuous monitoring)," according to the US General Services Administration, and was created in 2010 as a way to help agencies assess cloud service providers.

"FedRAMP builds upon the existing baseline security controls in place today, adding a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud services," Susie Adams, CTO for Microsoft's Federal division, wrote in a separate post on Monday. "This approach uses a 'do once, use many times' framework which reduces the costs, time and staff required to conduct redundant security assessments."

There are various levels of FedRAMP, but versions of the certificate with more aconyms – such as Microsoft's JAB pATO – are better [Your tax dollars at work.—Ed].

So far, seven organizations including Microsoft hold full JAB pATO FedRAMP certification, and two including Amazon have a provisional version of it known as a FedRAMP ATO.

"Windows Azure is the first public cloud platform, with infrastructure services and platform services, to receive a Provisional Authority to Operate from the FedRAMP Joint Authorization Board," Microsoft said in a press release announcing the move.

Though rival Amazon Web Services gained FedRAMP certification in May for IaaS services from its US East, US West, and GovCloud data centers, Microsoft's certification is slightly broader and better, which could lead to greater use by government.

Besides Microsoft and Amazon, other companies that hold FedRAMP include AT&T, Akamai, Autonomic Resources, CGI Federal, HP Enterprise Cloud Services, Lockheed Martin, and the USDA National Information Technology Center.

At the time of writing, Google had not given us a statement when we requested clarification on whether it was pursuing FedRAMP, but given the Obama administration's commitment to cloud and the aggressive competition among Microsoft, Amazon, and the Chocolate Factory, we reckon the company is in the process of getting approved.®

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