Microsoft (MSFT) has achieved an important step in becoming a cloud provider to the U.S. federal government. The company announced this week Windows Azure has achieved FedRAMP Joint Authorization Board Provisional Authority to Operate (P-ATO), making it easier for federal departments and agencies (that is, should the government re-open for business sometime soon) to purchase Azure services.

Susie Adams, CTO for Microsoft Federal, announced the milestone on the official Microsoft blog. Adams claimed that Azure is the first public cloud platform with both IaaS and PaaS offerings to receive FedRAMP status. That may be a bit of a stretch, but it's still a rather important designation for Microsoft and its growing number of Azure partners.

"This not only opens the door for faster cloud adoption, but helps agencies move to the cloud in a more streamlined, cost-effective way," Adams wrote in her blog post.

For any cloud services provider to sell into the U.S. federal government space, the FedRAMP designation is a requirement—something that very likely is slowing down the government shift to cloud, but a move that should ensure only vetted and secure cloud services make it into the federal space. Or so goes the theory. It doesn't really account for any rogue cloud services being used behind the backs of the powers that be.

As we've noted before on Talkin' Cloud, the FedRAMP credential requires a lengthy and strict process before the designation is granted, but it's a process more and more cloud providers are going through. Prior to Microsoft's announcement, we reported on the successful FedRAMP authorization of Amazon (AWS) Web Services GovCloud and HP (HPQ).

"The FedRAMP process for this type of approval is very rigorous and the JAB authorization is a big step forward for Microsoft. It also speak volumes to the pragmatic, holistic approach that Microsoft has taken for its cloud services offerings. Our government customers are ultimately the beneficiaries," Adams wrote.

Perhaps the only troubling part of this announcement is the missing partner element. There are bound to be plenty of partner opportunities, but Adams made no mention of how this authorization for Azure will affect the partners who are out there in the government space waiting to bring Azure to their federal customers.