Microsoft announces two new cloud regions in Canberra

Microsoft is opening two new hyperscale cloud regions in Canberra, to be located within Canberra Data Centres (CDC).

The two regions – Central 1 and 2 – are aimed squarely at government and its suppliers, and will double Microsoft’s available regions in Australia, adding to those in Sydney and Melbourne. Both the new regions are due to be available in the first half of next year.

Microsoft’s expansion into Canberra will be the first time public cloud services from a major provider are located in the same highly secure facilities as some of the nation’s most sensitive data, the company said.

“Government is one of the biggest consumers and producers of data, and that data lives in CDC for the most part. If we can bring hyperscale cloud into the same data centres, where government data lives, we can have secure networking between them, we can have all of the capability of CDC from a physical and personnel and security perspective – we can help government really accelerate innovation and the modernisation of services,” James Kavanagh, principal program manager, Microsoft Azure ecosystem engineering, told Computerworld.

The new regions will initially offer core Azure services, with plans to expand the offering. Government agencies will also benefit from CDC’s Intra Government Communications Network (ICON) connectivity.

“This is one of the largest investments we will make in this year. To partner with CDC on this, there are not many who can do that. I’m glad that it’s us that are doing that,” Kavanagh added. “It’s not small; we don’t do small when we do hyperscale. It’s big, big infrastructure.”

Get yourself Protected

Microsoft expects the regions will be able to service data classified at the Protected level and for the services to eventually be added to the Australian Signals Directorate's Certified Cloud Services List. Approval for an expanded range of Azure cloud services to handle Unclassified datawasissued in June.

Work towards achieving the approval began two years ago, Kavanagh explained.

“It’s a very intensive process to go through what it takes to do Protected assessment. It’s years of work. It’s full time engineering teams assigned to it. For us it is massive amounts of investment, of time and energy and willingness to listen to changes and adapt to requirements,” he said.

Microsoft's James Kavanagh and Greg Boorer, CEO of Canberra Data Centres

The assessment process for Protected certification began at the same time as for Unclassified certification which was granted earlier this year. The assessment involves Microsoft proving its products meet close to a thousand distinct security controls laid out in the ASD-maintained Information Security Manual, before the claims are verified by independent IRAP assessors and multiple ASD reviews.

Microsoft is quietly confident it will gain Protected certification.

IRAP assessors Shearwater concluded their report with a positive recommendation of Protected Certification for a range of services in both Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Office 365.

The two CDC campuses – in Fyshwick and Hume – are the only commercial data centre facilities in Australia with the security controls and Defence accreditations needed for the handling of Top Secret government data.

”You can’t download the manual on how to run a secret building! We’ve built Canberra Data Centres from the ground-up over 10 years with a singular purpose to be the most trusted, flexible and resilient platform for government innovation. CDC is the only place where you can consume Protected cloud today” CDC CEO Greg Boorer told Computerworld.

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CDC can also offer the assurance of beingmajority Australian owned – an important consideration for governments, Boorer says – with a 48 per cent stake held by the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation, on behalf of public service employees and Defence personnel. The management team together own a 4 per cent stake and the rest with New Zealand infrastructure investor Infratil, which avoids the risk of a hostile foreign take-over, Boorer says.

At present only cloud services from Sliced Tech and Vault Systems – which are both situated within CDC – are listed on the ASD Certified Cloud Services List for Protected data.

“We’re still working to finalise this certification process with ASD. We still have work to do, but the pathway is understood,” Kavanagh added.

Critical mass

CDC operates four data centres in Canberra – Fyshwick 1 which has more than 100 pods and 2300 racks; and Hume 1, 2 and 3 boasting 80 pods and 1600 racks. Another is currently being built at Fyshwick – prompted by Microsoft’s capacity demands – which will bring the CDC’s total capacity up to 60mw.

“But more important than building and operating facilities has been the creation of an ecosystem,” Boorer said. “We’ve accumulated a lot of agencies because they’ve recognised the underlying benefit of the value proposition of our facilities and our commercial approach.”

CDC currently has 43 federal government departments and agencies within its facilities. Each addition has a “snowball” effect, Boorer described in May.

“When you combine that real heady mix of agencies with a hyperscale platform – that really unlocks a lot of opportunities that have never existed before. And the missing piece of the puzzle to really unlock the potential of government has been a hyperscale partner in that ecosystem. Now with Microsoft coming on board, the potential is almost limitless,” Boorer said.

Canberra Data Centres

The arrival of additional regions was welcomed by Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, Angus Taylor.

“The Australian government has embarked on a sweeping program of change, bringing digital innovation to the transformation of the Australian public sector,” he said. “Global innovation in areas such as cloud technology is an essential foundation for this transformation and will ensure we can meet the expectations and needs of all Australians. So too the local software ecosystem can build its skills and innovate rapidly to first serve our local needs, then expand into global markets

The Canberra regions will bring Microsoft’s cloud region total globally to 42, more than any other provider.

In May the company announced plans for new datacentres in South Africa and France, and availability of new regions in the UK, Germany and South Korea.

“Across our nation, we see government, healthcare and education organisations all driving forward with their digital transformation initiatives. Our partnership with Canberra Data Centres, our open approach and our mature ecosystem of partners, ensures government can accelerate transformation and apply intelligent systems to their abundant existing data,” said Steven Worrall, managing director, Microsoft Australia.


Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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