Microsoft's classified cloud to go online in early 2019

As the deadline for vendors responding to the Pentagon's $10 billion cloud buy nears, Microsoft announced its classified offering will go live in time to handle the business – should it win.

security in the cloud (ShutterStock image)

With only days to go before the deadline for bids on the Pentagon's $10 billion single-source Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract, Microsoft announced its classified offering will go live in time to handle the business.

In an Oct. 9 blog post, Julia White, Microsoft corporate vice president for the Azure cloud, announced that the company is launching cloud regions enabled for secret or level 6 workloads in the first quarter of 2019. White also confirmed the company's intent "to deliver Azure Government services to meet the highest classification requirements, with capabilities for handling top secret U.S. classified data."

This announcement is significant because the JEDI solicitation specifies a timeline by which a winning vendor has to be able to deliver secret and top secret services to the DOD. Secret-level certification is required six months after the award, with top secret to come after nine months.

When the JEDI proposal was initially released in draft form, technology trade groups were concerned that only Amazon Web Services could meet these requirements, because of its work providing classified cloud services for the CIA. AWS is widely seen as the front-runner for the contract.

Oracle is protesting the JEDI solicitation in advance of the submission deadline.

JEDI bids are due Oct.12. The deadline was extended from Sept. 17, following industry feedback about its planned timeline for the procurement given its size, specs and scope.

White didn't single out the deadline or the contract in her blog post.

Also on the JEDI front, Google decided it was going to sit out the Pentagon's cloud procurement, in part because of employees' ethical concerns about lethal artificial intelligence capacity that could be supported by the DOD cloud and in part because, apparently, it couldn't meet the classified requirements.

"We are not bidding on the JEDI contract because first, we couldn’t be assured that it would align with our AI Principles. And second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications," Google said in a press statement.