Microsoft Launches New Azure Region For Government And Critical Infrastructure

Microsoft has opened two new Azure regions, both based in Canberra, in partnership with Canberra Data Centres. The new Azure Australia Central Regions will cater specifically to the needs of government and national critical infrastructure for Australia and New Zealand with a focus on high performance, resilience and availability. The new regions will not be be for broad-scale use, with multiple connectivity options available.

James Kavanagh, an engineer with Microsoft’s Azure team said “We are building infrastructure that is very dedicated, very much designed for critical applications. They’re designed for high levels of performance, high levels of resiliency and availability. They’ve got some unique characteristics when it comes to connectivity and hybrid flexility”.

These new centres, he said, are quite different to the regions already established in Sydney and Melbourne, noting that the Canberra centres are made for the data handled by health care, policing and other highly sensitive areas.

The partnership with Canberra Data Centres (CDC) is an important element of the new regions and is the first time Microsoft has made a public statement about who they are partnering with to offer Azure regions. Cavanagh explained that CDC already has a relationship with some parts of government, such as defence, so it made sense to leverage that relationship as they are already accredited for “Secret” level data.

CDC is fully Australian owned with the government being the largest shareholder through the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation with the rest owned by a dual Australian and New Zealand investment firm.

One of the important connectivity options, said Cavanagh, is the ability for data to be securely shared across applications within the new regions. He said this will allow government to modernise applications that are running within the new Azure regions. And the new regions won’t be available to Azure’s broader customer base.

“They are specifically tailored to government and critical national infrastructure,” said Kavanagh.

Greg Boorer, from CDC, said the data centres being used by Microsoft have been built to different standards than most commercial data centres. He said they were designed specifically for the handling of top secret data and have been accredited by government for that use.
“That means that there is a combination of physical security, electronic security but also policies and procedures, access controls and who actually has access. People have to have ‘Secret’ security clearances just to come on-site,” said Boorer.

He added that the new services are contracted to deliver 100% up-time.

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