ASIO eyes Microsoft Azure for phase one of tech transformation

Six packages are up for grabs under the spy agency's systems integration tender, with protected, secret, and top secret information to be hosted solely on Azure.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) is embarking on an organisation-wide technology transformation, turning to the market for help with the first stage which it said would see the building blocks be put in place.

ASIO is looking for one or more service providers to develop and provision a handful of integrated core technology platforms for the agency, with a request for expression of interest (EOI) detailing six separate work packages.

"ASIO is undergoing a large scale transformation in order to continue to succeed in a complex environment. The transformation affects all aspects of ASIO's business including technology, data, people, capabilities, processes, and culture," the EOI documents said.

"ASIO is pursuing technology platforms that are seamlessly connected, agile, sustainable, and scalable to support enterprise-wide capabilities."

Specifically, ASIO is looking for systems integration service providers to "develop greenfield solutions and run the technology platform/s as part of an integrated team, leveraging their IT service delivery and management experience to implement ASIO's vision".

The first work package -- the Enterprise Technology Platform (ETP) -- is for future technology infrastructure that ASIO said will underpin and support its core data platform, applications, the digital user experience platform, and other business and analytic capabilities.

According to the EOI, the design, build, and implementation of the ETP will be based on a hybrid deployment model, covering protected, secret, and top secret-level information, with Microsoft Azure being the requested platform.

Azure received approval in April 2018 from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) to host protected-level classified government information.

Microsoft was the fifth vendor to appear on the Certified Cloud Services List (CCSL) in a protected capacity at the time, but unlike previous certifications of its kind, Microsoft's certifications were provisional, and came with what the ASD had called "consumer guides".

The legitimacy of Microsoft's accreditation came under fire a month later during Senate Estimates, where Australia's Cyber Coordinator Alastair MacGibbon defended the government's decision to hand conditional protected-level certification out to Microsoft, saying he was confident the data on Australians was safe in the hands of Microsoft despite the Washington-headquartered company having staff scattered around the globe.

See also: Microsoft Azure: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

The second package detailed in the EOI is for a Core Data Platform (CDP). The CDP, as described in the EOI, will require vendors to deliver patterns and capabilities that are required to support the ingestion, processing, storage, and consumption of data assets across ASIO. 

The third package, the Cross Domain Solution (CDS), will provide for the controlled movement of data across the enterprise.  

The applications layer -- the fourth package -- will provide the actual applications and tools to support users in their respective functions, ASIO wrote, noting COTS software will be utilised where possible and any modifications will be avoided.

The fifth package, called the Digital User Experience Platform (DUXP), will sit above the applications layer in the end state technology environment for data analytics.

The final package is for a vendor to ensure the lights are kept on and maintenance is conducted when required.

As of June 30, 2018, ASIO had a headcount of 1,980 employees. The number of end user devices is around 2.5 times the number of staff, ASIO said, noting that within the organisation there is in excess of 500, mostly bespoke, applications. ASIO also operates multiple data centres.

ASIO said it would execute a two stage market approach, with the EOI forming the first stage. Submissions for the first phase close May 15, 2019 and the second stage will entail the release of a request for solutions to invited respondents.

ASIO also said funding for this procurement has not yet been approved.


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