Microsoft, VMware, Red Hat chase lucrative government cloud customers

Cloud providers continue to ramp up their offerings targeted at the federal government, with several announcements targeting the sector this week.

--Microsoft has opened a "private preview" of its Azure government cloud. This is the dedicated service specifically for government users. It has "physical and logical isolation at all layers," and will only employ U.S. personnel whose backgrounds have been vetted, Microsoft said.

white house_0.jpgImage credit: Flickr/MCS@flickr

The company first said it was working on such a cloud late last year. Now it's cracking the door open just a bit. Next step will be a limited public preview, the company said.

Microsoft's public Azure offering is FedRAMP certified, which means it meets the security requirements of some federal agencies.

--VMware said that it has applied for FedRAMP certification for a new hybrid cloud offering that will be run by hosting service provider Carpathia.

The focus on hybrid makes this one interesting. "Federal organizations can securely extend their data centers to the cloud quickly and confidently, using an integrated cloud infrastructure with the security of FedRAMP authorization," Angelos Kottas, director of product marketing for hybrid cloud service at VMware, wrote in a blog post this week.

VMware said it hopes to have the service available in the second half this year.

--Red Hat announced that Red Hat Enterprise Linux is now available to users of Amazon Web Services' GovCloud. GovCloud is a discreet AWS region that is designed for use by U.S. government agencies. It complies with FedRAMP plus a host of other security standards required by some government groups.

Red Hat said that many U.S. government agencies already use RHEL in house. The availability of RHEL in GovCloud could make it easier for them to start using GovCloud.

"AWS GovCloud (US) customers can deploy sensitive workloads on the AWS cloud and benefit from the use of identical technology as Red Hat Enterprise Linux deployments in their on-premises datacenters," Red Hat wrote in a press release.

Researchers expect a huge market for government use of cloud services, although by far the bulk of spending is expected to be in private clouds. IDC expects federal private cloud services spending to hit $1.7 billion this year, growing to $7.7 billion by 2017. Public cloud spending is expected to be much smaller, hitting just $118.3 million this year.

Look for some twists and turns as the vendors chase this market. Recall that AWS, a company that regular derides private clouds, has built a private cloud for the CIA.

Read more of Nancy Gohring's "To the Cloud" blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @ngohring and on Google+. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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