FAA Taps Microsoft Office 365 to Jump Into the Cloud

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The Federal Aviation Administration is following in the footsteps of its fellow government agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the states of California and Nebraska, and the cities of New York and San Francisco by choosing Microsoft's Office 365 to provide it with cloud-based email and other office tools.

The FAA will be transferring a total of 80,000 employees - 60,000 at the FAA and 20,000 associated with the Department of Transportation - to Microsoft's cloud by way of Computer Sciences Corp., which was awarded a contract of $91 million to facilitate the transition to the cloud.

“The FAA’s mission is essential to how our nation functions, and the agency’s decision to implement Office 365 validates our approach to enterprise security, privacy and compliance in the cloud,” said Curt Kolcun, vice president of U.S. Public Sector at Microsoft Corp. He cited Microsoft's 30-year history of collaborating with government agencies to provide technological support as one of the reasons that the FAA decided to go with the software company.

Office 365 provides an array of productivity services, such as email, instant messaging, calendars, web-conferencing tools, and other software that allows for colleagues to work together on documents. More, Office 365 allows users to access documents from any internet-connected device via Microsoft Sharepoint. In other words, FAA and DOT employees: you've got no excuse to miss deadlines and such anymore.

The fat contract Microsoft sealed with the FAA should provide a soothing salve to that burn the Department of the Interior left last month when it reversed its decision to use Microsoft for its cloud services and instead went for Google Apps. While that was indeed a slight to Microsoft, this FAA contract is more than double the contract that the DOI had intended for Microsoft so that's a pleasant comeuppance to Google.

Although Microsoft announced last week its Office 365 for Government suite last week, the FAA won't be using that service. Instead, the agency is said to be using Office 365 ITAR - as in, International Traffic in Arms Regulations - with ProofPoint Archive, Microsoft's other offering for governments looking to adopt cloud-based technologies.

So what's the difference between Office 365 for Governments and Office 365 ITAR? A Microsoft spokesperson explained it as such: Office 365 for Government is a multi-tenant service that segregates U.S. government customer data. Office 365 ITAR is dedicated service for larger customers that is isolated & separate from other customers in a caged environment. The latter supports FISMA requirements, complies with ITAR regulatory controls, and offers Public Trust High Background Investigations of people who manage the data.

And there you have it.

P.S. - Whew. With all the talk of FAA, planes, clouds, flight, and so on, you have no idea how hard it was not to make a load of flying/sky puns in this article. However, feel free to add your own below in the comments.