Microsoft's move to the cloud

While the agency budgets look big, it’s actually really tight because most of those dollars are used for maintenance they don’t have a lot of money to innovate. This is an opportunity to move some of those dollars to new innovation. They don’t have to go through years of process to get this done and five thousand bodies to make this happen. They can take advantage of the infrastructure that’s already in place.

  • How are agencies taking the first steps?

Chris: They're choosing a mix of cloud applications and the on-premise applications they're used to. Depending on what needs they have, they can mix and match.
Teresa: Most customers aren't going to pick up and move everything to the cloud at once. It depends on what their workers need.

  • How are you trying to assuage the fears of chief information officers about their security concerns? How do you deal with the evolving standards, such as FISMA, Microsoft has to meet?

Chris: I spend a lot of time talking to CIOs about this topic. Security is the top question. We're working on FISMA certification. But that's only one standard. We go with the ISO standard, which is a benchmark for data centers.

  • What about the standards NIST is working on?

Chris: We're not waiting on any of that and we're not dependent (on it). We've done the hard work to look at how ISO fits with the NIST standards. We've been working with NIST on how to continue to evolve and apply the standards they apply to the cloud and how they form the next generation of FISMA. We have an ongoing partnership with NIST, but there are no blockers.

Teresa: Senators Carper and Lieberman are looking at what the next generation of FISMA should look like. The problem with FISMA now is, once agencies run these reports and put them in binders, they're already outdated. Attacks are happening in real time.....All the companies have to agree on interoperability standards. If we can get the government bar to that level, all the other industries can take advantage of that.

  • Can you talk about how the T-Mobile incident and how it has impacted your efforts to get agencies to trust cloud computing?

Chris: That platform was run by Danger, which is a subsidiary and not a Microsoft platform. There's a big difference in cloud services. Our services are built from the ground up with $2 billion data centers. All have recovery systems.

Teresa: There's real excitement about the cloud. This is the single area where (agencies) can be an innovator rather than a laggard. There's still apprehension in how they can make it happen in the right way. We just have to approach it cautiously and we need to hand-hold them through these steps.

Chris: Some people don't even know what a data center looks like, so we take them on tours. If they go to the cloud, they do lose some control over how data is managed and serviced. So we show them how it works and the security measures we take.... The products are exactly same in the cloud. In terms of integration, all the capabilities are still available in cloud as they would be in offline version.

  • How is Microsoft taking advantage of newly launched Apps.gov?

Chris: We have LiveMeeting, our Web conferencing tool, online email, instant messaging. Soon we'll have Azure, our big Windows platform in the cloud.

Teresa:Their goal is to get more companies get more applications up there. We have 7,500 partners in the public sector and we're trying to get them to put up their apps too.