As Microsoft officials hinted back in March, the company has rolled out a public-cloud Office 365 offering for U.S. government customers.
The newly announced Office 365 for Government is "a new multi-tenant service that stores US government data in a segregated community cloud," as Microsoft officials described it in a May 30 blog post. Like Microsoft's other Office 365 offerings, it includes Exchange Online, Lync Online, SharePoint Online and an option for purchasing Office Professional Plus for use locally on PCs.
Microsoft is planning to add support for IPv6 to Office 365 for Government by September 2012, and "we're taking steps to soon support Criminal Justice Information Security (CJIS) policies," with the offering, officials said in today's blog post. These standards will supplement the others already supported by Office 365, including ISO 27001, SAS70 Type II, EU Safe Harbor, EU Model Clauses, the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the US Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and the US Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), the Softies added.
Before today, Microsoft's primary offering for government customers was Office 365 ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations). Office 365 ITAR isn't a public-cloud play; it is a dedicated service aimed at very large customers which isolated and separated customers in their own locked-down environment. Office 365 ITAR supports FISMA and complies with ITAR regulatory controls and offers Public Trust High Background Investigations of people who manage the data (like its predecessor, BPOS-F).
"Office 365 for Enterprises and Government offer the same level of functionality: Both offer a FISMA package and have best-in-class security, transparency, and compliance features," a Microsoft spokesperson told me. "The difference is that Office 365 for Government has a segregated infrastructure for US government customers. If the customer has no special need to be in a tenant community that only has other US Government tenants, then we recommend staying in our Enterprise cloud. If customer has a special regulatory need to migrate, we will help them do so."
Those interested in Office 365 for Government "can contact their Microsoft representative for details and to explore the service," according to today's blog post.