AWS opens ‘top secret’ western region for US government customers

“Amazon’s cloud arm, AWS, announced a new ‘top secret’ region this week, designed specifically for the U.S. government. It is Amazon’s second such region. The company now boasts “top secret” regions on the east and west coasts of the U.S.

“AWS Top Secret-West is accredited to operate workloads at the Top Secret U.S. security classification level. The new Region adds multiple Availability Zones geographically separated from AWS Top Secret-East,” Amazon’s Max Peterson wrote in a company blog post announcing the new region.

The company, which is experiencing an outage today in its East Coast region, recognizes that government clients have different needs. You can’t put them in a multi-tenant server farm with the rest of humanity. They need isolation and security, and that’s what the top secret regions have been designed to give them.

“AWS is committed to helping our customers and partners in the defense, intelligence and national security communities deliver their most critical missions,” Peterson wrote.

Last year when the company was fighting with Microsoft over the decade-long JEDI cloud contract, it could point to this top secret region as evidence of its capabilities in managing these special requirements. That contract was eventually scrapped, lost in litigation, and perhaps this is another way to show just how prepared Amazon is to deal with sensitive material like the kind from the DoD in the future.

The new site gives government clients a way to spread out their workloads across geographies, and then within that, choose different availability zones. The zone has been certified by a number of government entities to provide the level of security required by the target customers, including Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Intelligence Community Directive (ICD 503) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-53 Revision 4.