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Microsoft Azure Government launches, ready for ‘audio and video surveillance’

Microsoft has announced that its cloud infrastructure is ready to accept government clients, particularly US public sector customers in federal, state and local organisations.

Speaking at its Cloud for Government Summit in Washington DC earlier this week, the Redmond-based firm officially confirmed general availability of Microsoft Azure Government.

Read more: Microsoft openly offered cloud data to support NSA PRISM programme

Microsoft’s public sector vice president Curt Kolcun explained why it is so important for government agencies to find a cloud provider that is right for their needs.

"As enterprises face tough challenges, they also have great opportunities in considering the cloud platform as a method to achieve greater transformation," he wrote in a blog post.

"Nowhere is this more evident than with US government agencies, as citizen expectations, mandates and executive orders like cloud-first and open government initiatives are accelerating government technology leaders' move to the cloud."

Microsoft claims that its new government offering meets all the necessary regulations, with all the service’s components isolated in physical, logical and networking terms and all data hosted within the continental United States.

In order to maintain the highest security levels, only preapproved government agencies and their service providers will be able to access the Azure Government infrastructure and even support staff will be background checked.

In terms of official accreditation, Azure has already been granted a Provisional Authorities to Poerate in 2013 and claims it has a “comprehensive roadmap” for acquiring other certifications.

Perhaps the development that is most likely to raise eyebrows is Microsoft’s admission that the platform will be available for “audio and video surveillance,” alongside more rudimentary tasks like big data analysis.

Read more: Government cloud computing adoption

If it is to entice public sector services to join its cloud platform, Microsoft will have to compete with major players such as Amazon Web Services, which recently won a $600 million contract with the Central Intelligence Agency.