It always happens this time of year. Microsoft, which spends most of the time locked tighter than a clam, suddenly opens up and starts giving out news bites like a leaky cauldron. It’s the prologue to the Worldwide Partner Conference and Microsoft can’t seem to stop giving.
Yesterday it announced a whole bunch of productivity and synching releases for the private sector. It also announced a bunch of public sector releases that nearly slipped under the radar, including the fact that as of the beginning of next year, Dynamics CRM Online will be available as a separate instance for US federal, state and local governments.
The new Dynamics CRM instances will also comply with the FedRAMP standard. The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) is a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services.
Any development around Dynamics CRM is a big deal, but this one looks particularly juicy. In a blog post outlining the developments and in a related but a separate announcement about Azure public cloud, Curt Kolcun, vice president, US Public Sector also pointed out that Microsoft public service data centers have all been construct red close to government centers and separate from the Azure public cloud.
If the fact that vendors like Microsoft, or IBM, have been developing a wide network of data enters around the world is not new, what is interesting here is that Microsoft is making much of the fact that its data centers geographically distributed to support federal continuity scenarios.
In other words, Microsoft is offering public bodies the possibility of storing their data in a geographically compliant data center. In doing so, it is tackling one of the biggest obstacles at the moment to government adoption of cloud services.
With compliance regimes getting tougher and tougher, there is huge pressure on data storage providers to locate the data centers in geographies that are considered compliant under specific regimes.
Dynamics CRM for Government
That’s all by the by. The big public sector announcement from Microsoft is the Dynamics CRM for government cloud.
The new service, which will be available early in 2015, will incorporate both existing Microsoft on–premises investments and in the cloud through hybrid deployments and will also include integrations with the Azure and Office 365 government community clouds.
By doing this, Microsoft is enabling public bodies tie all their different Microsoft investments together and access data across all the different services seamlessly.
Microsoft says the development of the Dynamics CRM for government is a response to the already extensive use of Dynamics CRM across agencies for everything from grant management to field inspections and more. Kolcum said:
With this addition of Dynamics to the government cloud products we’ve brought to market, Microsoft will be able to offer a truly end-to-end solution to help our customers cover all their needs. From enabling greater communication and collaboration, to streamlining infrastructure and management, to accessing greater insights from data and now to better engaging citizens, a Microsoft government cloud environment will provide all of these services."
Azure and Office 365
Microsoft doesn’t say much more than that about it, but as this is only a preview of what is to come next week, its only been announced to whet the public appetite for the partner conference.
In this respect, and also for the public sector, Microsoft announced that it has taken another step forward to making its Azure government cloud general available. Kolcum said that as part of the process to move it to general release, Microsoft is expanding the preview to more partner and customer solutions:
Customers and partners are finding that the Azure government cloud provides a unique platform that enables them to serve as strategic cloud brokers with finished services like Azure Active Directory (AD), providing multi-factor authentication and data protection services plus single sign-on to more than 2,000 popular cloud applications ... Cloud infrastructure is key, but it is the finished services such as Azure Active Directory (AD), data, mobility and productivity alignment that will continue to set Microsoft’s cloud vision apart."
Kolcum also offered some insight into government take-up of Office 365. He says that there are currently more than 2,200 federal, state and local government customers in the US have signed-up to Office 365.
He says that n the past 90 days alone, more than 750 state and local governments and more than 60 federal government agencies have purchased seats of Office 365, while a majority of Federal cabinet level agencies, in whole or in part, are using Office 365 for productivity and collaboration.
It is impossible to verify those figures independently, but anecdotal evidence would point to the accuracy of them.