Victoria's Cenitex launches VicCloud Protect on Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure-based Cenitex service VicCloud to allow government customers to store classified workloads.

Victoria's on-again, off-again, state-owned IT service, the Centre for IT Excellence (Cenitex), has turned to Microsoft for the cloud element of the shared services initiative.

Microsoft Australia on Monday announced that Cenitex has leveraged Microsoft Azure cloud services to develop VicCloud Protect, touted as a highly secure service that enables its customers to safely manage applications and data rated up to Protected-level.

"VicCloud Protect is a first for the Victorian government and our customers can now confidently store their classified data in the cloud with peace of mind that the platform meets both the Australian Cyber Security Centre guidelines and the Victorian Protection Data Security Framework to handle Protected level information," Cenitex service delivery director Nigel Cadywould said.

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

"VicCloud Protect offers cost-effective additional security to existing workloads, offering flexibility without compromising security and promoting service innovation while protecting data integrity. It is an important part of our ongoing commitment to a secure, efficient and modern digital government for Victoria."

Cenitex will use VicCloud Protect to deploy individual workloads or subscriptions in Azure, and said integration with customers' existing and future IT infrastructure is assured.

The Victorian government has had a tumultuous history with Cenitex, with an efficiency review, commissioned by the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet, in 2015 saying the proposal to outsource Cenitex should not proceed, and instead revert back to a government IT service.

Cenitex has been plagued with controversy, such as the slashing of 200 jobs in 2012 as a result of employees having exorbitant salaries and contract fees, with some salaries reportedly worth AU$500,000 per year. Up to AU$4 million worth of IT contracts were also awarded without due process.

The ability to store workloads up to Protected-level follows Microsoft in April last year receiving accreditation from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) for its "government-configured" clouds to be used for Australian government data classified up to that level.

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

Read more: Home Affairs denies Microsoft in breach of Signals Directorate conditions

The CCSL, now under the care of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, boasts 13 providers that can all store government data at the unclassified DLM level: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Dell Virtustream, Dimension Data, Education Services Australia, Google, IBM, Macquarie Government, Microsoft, Rackspace, Salesforce, ServiceNow, Sliced Tech, and Vault Systems.

However, only six of these vendors are also certified at a Protected-level.

Local vendors, Sliced Tech and Vault Systems, were the first to receive protected status, shortly followed by Macquarie Government, part of the Macquarie Telecom Group.

NTT-owned Dimension Data was then accredited to provide protected-level cloud services to Australian government entities despite being an international company, and one that has data centres outside of the country.

Following Microsoft's accreditation, AWS received certification in January to provide storage for highly sensitive government workloads out of its AWS Asia Pacific (Sydney) Region.

AWS was on Thursday awarded a whole-of-Australian government cloud services deal.

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