DFAT dips toes in Microsoft public cloud

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DFAT dips toes in Microsoft public cloud

Goes Office 365, Azure for new business unit.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs has shifted one of its business units to Microsoft’s Office 365 and Azure solutions in one of the first federal government migrations of a full workload to the public cloud.

DFAT earlier this week launched its $140 million ‘innovationXchange’ - an innovation hub designed to propel the department to be more “create, entrepreneurial and innovative” in how Australia delivers international aid.

The centre is tasked with testing and implementing new technologies, ideas and partnerships that can be embedded across DFAT.

One of those technologies is public cloud.

DFAT signed a partnership with integrator Data#3 late last year to built the hub’s IT environment using Microsoft’s Office 365 productivity suite (hosted out of Singapore) and the company’s Azure infrastructure-as-a-service (based in Australia).

It's also using Azure's platform-as-a-service to host the public-facing innovationXchange website.

The agency's data is considered 'unclassified' and able to be publicly released, and was therefore eligible to be hosted in offshore cloud, as per the Australian Government Information Security Manual [pdf].

While small - the solution only covers 20 seats - DFAT is hoping to use the rollout as a template for utilising public cloud to stand up similar business units in the future, and additionally more widely across the department.

As of Monday this week, InnovationXchange staff are utilising tools such as Yammer, InTune, single sign-on and Azure media services on Surface Pro devices through a single internet connection and router for wi-fi.

“I aim to put innovation at the heart of all we do – my challenge for the [DFAT] is: come up with the biggest, best and brightest new ideas about how we do business across the board – how we operate in all our spheres of influence,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said earlier this week.

“At the heart of innovation .. is calculated risk. One calculated risk that we are already taking is being the very first department in the Australian Government to adopt Microsoft’s public cloud services since the cloud-first policy was announced in October of 2014.

“This solution provides the innovationXchange with a new platform to drive collaboration and the exchange of creative ideas across the aid program and with external stakeholders. It is also a completely mobile solution.”

Microsoft is expected to announce the availability of its locally-hosted Office 365 suite in the next week.

The company last December announced it would go live with locally-hosted Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online by the end of March 2015 out of its two data centres in Sydney and Melbourne.

The two facilities launched last October to house Azure Australia.

Existing Australian Office 365 customers - such as innovationXchange - who are currently hosted out of Singapore will be automatically transitioned to Sydney and Melbourne from September, iTnews understands.

The federal government’s cloud-first policy - released last October - mandates that agencies adopt cloud services where they are “fit for purpose, provide adequate protection of data and deliver value for money”.

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