It's been an interesting last couple of weeks for Microsoft and Public Sector customers around the globe related to cloud technlogies.  At the beginning of December there was the news that Microsoft's Cloud Infrastructure received FISMA certification, which means customers of any size can benefit from highly-focused testing and monitoring, automated patch delivery, cost-saving economies of scale, and ongoing security improvements delivered by this infrastructure.

Then last week there was the news that the USDA had been looking for a flexible, reliable and secure cloud solution for their messaging and collobaration needs and in the end selected Microsoft Cloud offerings, including Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting.  They'll be moving 120,000 people to the solutions and in the process consolidating 21 different messaging and collaboration systems.

As part of the story, there was a great analogy in a quote from Chris Smith, chief information officer for the USDA, which was:

“Basically, the car we owned was getting ready for a major engine overhaul,” he said. “All our servers were at least three years old. We’re going from owning the car and paying for the tires, the oil, and the upkeep to basically buying a Zip car that’s wherever we need it, whenever we need it.”

USDA decided to go with Microsoft’s cloud offering after years of watching the online messaging and collaboration space mature, Smith said. “We really ended up in the right place at the right time,” he said.

Finally there was a piece of news this week from Europe where the Transport of London (TfL) will be moving their Trackernet data feed to the Microsoft Windows Azure platform.  Trackernet is described as an innovative new realtime display of the status of the London Underground 'Tube' network.

Mark Taylor, Director of DPE at Microsoft UK, said "TfL asked for a system able to handle in excess of seven million requests per day, as well as being able to scale to handle unpredictable events like snow days."

Michael Gilbert, TfL's Director of Information Management, had this to say about the offering, "TfL with the help of Microsoft, has created a strategic, scalable technical platform that will aid us in making real-time data sets available; the first of which is Trackernet data." 

It's great to see government agencies and other public sector groups beginning to take advantage of the benefits that cloud computing offers such reducing hardware costs, greater scalability and flexibility, as well as the proven enterprise ready software and support solutions that Microsoft brings from to the table.