Developing SaaS Solutions for Government Customers

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Application Development Manager Shany Wiesel discusses considerations for building and delivering solutions for customers using the Azure Gov cloud environment.


Are you already developing and providing SaaS solution on Azure Commercial Cloud? Do you want to extend your customer base to Azure Gov?

Are your commercial customers enjoying your services on Azure Commercial SaaS cloud, while your government customers are still using your on-premises solutions?

This article discusses the considerations you should take into account when planning to expand your business to serve Government customers.

Making sure you have the required certifications

Microsoft is the leading Cloud Solution Provider in FedRAMP certified services that have already achieved US Government FISMA, FedRAMP, and DISA certifications.

As a SaaS provider interested in providing services through the Azure government marketplace, your SaaS certification process could be streamlined, costs minimized and focused on the SaaS layer.

Do all your Government customers need to consume your services through using your SaaS offering on the Azure Gov platform? The answer depends on the certifications that your customers require, since Azure Commercial meets FedRAMP moderate and many other certifications.

The Microsoft Trust Center offers detailed security, privacy, and compliance information for all Microsoft cloud services. Using the Microsoft Trust Center, you can scope and filter Microsoft’s compliance offerings based on Region, Country, Industry, and Product/Service, and easily determine which Cloud services are best suited for a particular customer workload.

You should also consider Azure Blueprints to help automate the process of achieving and maintaining compliance of the services that are being used. Utilize Azure Policy and Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) in both your Azure commercial and Azure Gov offerings.

Getting your development resources in-line with the Azure Gov offering

Cloud is the new frontier of business computing. Delivery of software and applications via the cloud is rapidly overtaking traditional in-house systems as a reliable, scalable, and cost-effective IT solution.

Appropriate investment and modernizing your solution to determine how to better use cloud services to make the cloud work for you is key. Solutions can take advantage of both IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) services as well as PaaS (Platform as a Service) services architected to best fit your product offerings.

Azure Gov is slower to gain features due to certification timelines, You want to make sure that the services that you are using in the Azure commercial cloud implementation are available for your Azure Gov implementation, and if there is a plan to have the services ready in the future. Some services may be available only in a specific Azure Gov region, so you should include reviewing the list of services in each region in your decision-making process.

You can find the Azure Gov developer guide here.

Keeping in mind the stability, resiliency, and redundancy of your SaaS service, you should implement a geography redundancy strategy in the Azure Commercial cloud offering.

Azure is a very stable platform and very resilient. The stability and resiliency of your service depends on how you set up your geo-redundant options for backups, SQL replication, and the VMs that support your services and applications.

Azure runs in multiple geographies around the world. An Azure geography is a defined area of the world that has at least one Azure Region. An Azure region is an area within a geography, having one or more datacenters.

Each Azure region is paired with another region within the same geography, together making a regional pair. Across regional pairs, Azure serializes platform updates (planned maintenance), so that only one paired region gets updated at any point in time. In case of an outage affecting multiple regions, at least one region in each pair is prioritized for recovery.

Find the Azure Regional pairs for Azure Gov here.

Keeping a DevOps mindset

Some services may take longer to become available in Azure Gov due to dependency on added certification requirements and their associated timelines.

Services that you use in your solution may have different versions between the Azure Commercial and Azure Gov environments. Updates and new offerings timelines are determined by the development team that manages that specific service. The good news is that eventually, it is the same software bits once a feature (or update of it) is deployed to Azure Gov.

In addition, there are some services that you must use for compliance in Azure Gov that you may consider not using in Azure Commercial.

When planning deployments and releases in Azure Gov, since it is expected to have some amount of lag behind Commercial and since services used / required may be different, planning and separating the tests timelines and release timelines is key.

You should keep an ongoing gap analysis process and integrate the conclusions into the build and release practices. You may want to decide to keep two separate development environments for each cloud offering, or you may want to have one development environment but separate the release pipelines based on separate parallel tests in the two cloud environments, and promote to production based on working functionality in a separate release schedule.

There is no “one size fits all” solution. But the solution can be kept simple by properly planning the build and deployment pipelines and keeping in mind the differences between the services used and availability in each environment.

Publishing your SaaS offering in Azure Gov Marketplace

Publishing your solution in Azure Government Marketplace is easy. It is recommended to request an account and an Azure Gov subscription for testing in advance, to allow time for eligibility checks.

This tutorial offers a useful review of the required steps needed in order to publish your SaaS solution in Azure Gov Marketplace

Ensuring you have support services ready

Last, but certainly not least, it is important to make sure you have both reactive and proactive support to guide you along your journey to publish your SaaS solution to Government customers.

Do you already have Premier developer support? Easily extend your contract to support your Azure Gov Cloud workloads. For details, contact your Application Development Manager.

 

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