Microsoft has joined a small list of cloud providers whose services have gained a key security approval for use across the US government.
The company announced on Monday that Windows Azure has been granted a 'provisional authorisation to operate' (P-ATO) under the Federal Risk and Authorisation Management Program (FedRAMP).
The initial authorisation covers Microsoft's Azure infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service offerings.
The FedRAMP program is meant to streamline and standardise the security assessment, authorisation and monitoring of vendors selling cloud services to US government agencies under a central vetting process run by the Joint Authorisation Board (JAB), which includes CIOs from the Department of Homeland Security, the General Services Administration, and the Department of Defense.
The program allows vendors to pass through a single vetting process rather than undergo fresh checks each time it bids for a tender with a new agency.
Other IT companies that have achieved P-ATO accreditation for different IaaS services include HP, Akamai, Lockheed Martin, CGI Federal, Autonomic Resources, and AT&T.
However, Susie Adams, chief technology officer for Microsoft Federal, said in a blogpost that: "Windows Azure is the first public cloud platform, with infrastructure services and platform services, to receive a JAB P-ATO."
Microsoft's datacentres were also evaluated under the process, which Adams says could help its other cloud services with FedRAMP security controls.
Amazon was granted an ATO in May for AWS GovCloud and all US AWS regions with the US Department of Health and Human Services under a FedRAMP process.