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Government-Aimed Office 365 Service Coming This Year

Microsoft's new software-as-a-service offering for U.S. federal agencies and their partners, Office 365 Government Secret, will arrive by mid-2022, the company announced on Monday.

Microsoft is planning a rollout of the service to the "US Federal Civilian, Department of Defense (DoD), Intelligence Community (IC), and US government partners" working with Secret-classified information. Currently, the service is undergoing accreditation review by the U.S. government, Microsoft indicated.

Office 365 Government Secret is being designed to support Impact Level 6 (IL6) work, which means that "Secret" information will get stored and processed. IL6 also signifies that the data can "only be processed in a DoD private/community or Federal government community cloud," according to Microsoft's IL6 overview document.

With IL6, dedicated datacenter infrastructure is used for the data storage and processing, which is deemed to be closed and "self-contained" according to Microsoft's IL6 document description. These IL6 workloads are physically separated from non-DoD tenancies. Government entities have options to use the Microsoft ExpressRoute service with it, which offers private Internet connections for high-bandwidth data.

The dedicated infrastructure IL6 approach differs from the more common service model that's used by commercial customers, where workloads get run on shared infrastructure, which is known as a "multitenant" environment.

In addition to the coming Office 365 Government Secret service, Microsoft already offers Azure Government Secret and Top Secret cloud services. They reached the "general availability" production-use level back in August. At the time, Microsoft had explained that it received "Authorization to Operate" for those Azure services by meeting Intelligence Community Directives 503 and 705.

Proposed uses for Azure Government Secret and Top Secret services include human and signals intelligence, with artificial intelligence processing for language detection, text translation, computer vision, metadata and text extraction, optical character reading and key phrase detection, according to Microsoft's August announcement.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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