Microsoft Cloud is USDA-Approved

Marking the largest cloud federal government deployments in the history of cloud computing, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced their shift from on-premise e-mail and productivity application to the cloud infrastructure of Microsoft. The USDA is the first cabinet-level federal agency to adapt to the cloud.

The transfer to Microsoft Online Services involves 120,000 users, fusing 21 difference messaging and collaboration systems into one which will take place in the next 4 weeks.

“This is really about increasing collaboration and communications across the breadth of 120,000 users in 5,000 offices across the country and 100 countries around the globe to better deliver on the USDA’s mission,” he said. “For us a move to the cloud was a question of performance, service, and cost, and this solution will help us streamline our efforts and use taxpayer dollars efficiently,” said Chris Smith, chief information officer for the United States Department of Agriculture.

The federal agency will use Microsoft products to enhance collaboration which includes Microsoft exchange for messaging and calendaring, Sharepoint Online for document collaboration, Office Communications Online for instant messaging, and Office Live Meeting for Web conferencing. The ability of employees to set their online availability and preferred communication medium at a given time– via chat, voice, or mail– spells increased efficiency and productivity.

Smith said that the agency will turn to Microsoft for upgrades and improvements which can do much more than what his agency can handle. They have been observing Microsoft’s cloud offerings for years now, “We really ended up in the right place at the right time,” he said, noting of how much the company’s offering has matured.

According to Microsoft’s vice president of U.S. Public Sector Curt Kolcun, the collaboration only strengthens the relationship of Microsoft with U.S. Public Sector as it joins 500 state local governments across 48 states under USDA. Microsoft Online Services will deploy an optimized version to ensure security, privacy and compliance of the sector’s needs.

“The past few months have marked a transformative time in government IT, with the state of California, the state of Minnesota, and New York City each embracing cloud computing and choosing Microsoft’s cloud solutions,” Kolcun aid. “And now that momentum is carrying into the federal sector, with this groundbreaking implementation from USDA.”

The Microsoft Global Foundation Services received its Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA) Authorization to Operate (ATO), an important security requirement for US federal agencies, earlier this month. This is a certification that Microsoft cloud is reliable and trustworthy.

The USDA’s dedicated infrastructure will be located in a secure facility that has very limited access to strictly US citizens only in compliance with the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR),  and uses biometric identification.  Prior to the USDA, New York City has gotten on Microsoft’s cloud as well.