Microsoft and French multinational defence industry contractor Thales have partnered up to develop a common defence cloud solution for armed forces.
The solution that is set to be jointly developed by the two groups is based on Microsoft’s Azure Stack platform, which allows providers to build their own versions of Azure in private data centres.
The tech giant delivered the first release version of Azure Stack to hardware partners in July last year, with Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lenovo at the time already on board, and Cisco and Huawei following close behind.
According to Thales, Azure Stack represents a flexible hybrid cloud environment that will be fully cyber secured and adapted to military resilience constraints by the defence contractor.
The driving force behind the partnership between Thales and Microsoft is the development of a modular solution that will allow armed forces to keep their sensitive data inside their own infrastructures.
Thales hopes the fruits of the partnership will accompany the digital transformation of armed forces both in the command centre and on the operations theatre -- that is, in the field.
Under the partnership, Microsoft Azure Stack will be used as the baseline system into which Thales will integrate its connectivity and end-to-end cyber security and encryption solutions.
The resulting system is expected to combine the cloud computing power and functionalities of Azure Stack with Thales’ own cyber security functionalities.
It is thought that, further down the track, future applications developments could see Azure Stack augmented by Thales’ Guavus Reflex analytics platform, giving users the ability to analyse big amount of data in real-time for intelligence gathering.
“The final piece of the puzzle will be delivered by Thales’s expertise as a field integrator,” the defence contractor said in a statement. “Because of the unique environment this cloud platform will operate in, such as theatres of operations and forward operating bases in remote locations, the platform will need to be configured differently than a commercial system.
“Each integrated system will require a level of autonomy, and be capable of working ‘offline’ in case of a connection loss due to conditions on the ground. It will also require systems to be portable and be ruggedised and hardened to ensure resilience when deployed in theatre,” it said.
While it remains to be seen what applications the resulting solution might have in the local market, Thales is a big player in Australia’s defence industry and a major contractor to the Federal Government’s Department of Defence.
The partnership comes just months after Microsoft Australia became the latest cloud services provider to be awarded the Federal Government’s “protected” status, giving the vendor the ability to handle classified and highly sensitive government data.
The Federal Government revealed on 3 April that the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), the intelligence agency that sits within the Department of Defence, had designated Microsoft Azure and Office 365 with the much sought after “protected” classification on its Certified Cloud Services List (CCSL).
Microsoft’s “protected” classification coincided with the launch of the company’s new Azure Australia Central regions in Canberra, after setting up shop in Canberra Data Centres’ (CDC) facilities in the nation’s capital, as part of a broader move to lure government agencies to its cloud platform.