On Tuesday, Microsoft announced that it will roll out custom versions of Azure Government and Office 365 US Government Defense crafted for the US Department of Defense (DoD). The products, which will meet specific DoD requirements, will be available by the end of 2016.

According to a press release, the new versions of Azure Government and Office 365 will be physically isolated, and “will be available in two new dedicated regions.” These new data center regions will use Microsoft ExpressRoute to connect to DoD servers. For those unfamiliar, ExpressRoute is Microsoft’s private connection tool that can offer lower latencies and increased security.

Additionally, the new versions of Office 365 and Azure were “built from the ground up to meet DoD Impact Level 5 controls,” a release stated. Essentially, that means that these new cloud products can be used for DoD National Security System data and mission critical information. More information on the DoD Impact Levels can be found here.

SEE: Understanding the military buildup of offensive cyberweapons (ZDNet)

According to the press release, “Microsoft is the only commercial cloud provider to offer a cloud that is DoD Impact Level 5-ready for infrastructure, platform, and productivity services.”

Microsoft also announced two new regions for Azure Government in Arizona and Texas, to reach general availability in 2017. This brings Microsoft’s total number of regions for Azure Government up to six, including Virginia and Iowa, as well as the two unnamed regions specifically for the DoD products.

So far, Microsoft claims more than 7,000 Government Cloud customers, with nearly six million total users. The company has also signed Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) agreements in 23 US states.

Bob Gourley, co-founder of the cybersecurity consultancy Cognitio and former CTO of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that “Microsoft’s move to comply with government needs for security in the cloud environment will translate to better security and functionality for government users and more business for Microsoft.”

But, he said, their tendency to focus primarily on larger organizations means they’re missing a big part of the market.

“Government contracting regulations require federal government suppliers leverage cloud capabilities that meet government guidelines,” Gourley said. “Cognitio’s clients in this sector are seeking out alternatives for cloud computing providers that can comply. But Microsoft is giving most government contractors the stiff-arm. When they allow small seat license deals they will see their business skyrocket.”

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Microsoft announced new, DoD-specific versions of Azure Government and Office 365 that meet DoD Impact Level 5 guidelines.
  2. Microsoft also announced two new regions for the DoD product, and two other regions in Arizona and Texas, bringing their total number of Government Cloud regions to six.
  3. Microsoft’s efforts could land them more government customers, but they should expand their offerings to smaller organizations as well, an expert said.