Microsoft is offering private previews of its new secret-level cloud to federal agencies while it awaits full accreditation for the service, the company announced April 17.

“Private preview is done on a case by case basis for existing customers as Azure Government Secret is pending accreditation,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Federal Times.

The announcement is consistent with Microsoft’s October 2018 statement that the Azure Government Secret cloud would be available by the end of the first quarter of 2019.

“The Azure Government Secret regions are built to maintain the security and integrity of classified workloads while enabling fast access to sensitive, mission-critical information,” wrote Lily Kim, general manager for Microsoft Azure Global, in a blog post.

“These dedicated datacenter regions are built with additional controls to meet the regulatory and compliance requirements for [Department of Defense] Impact Level 6 and Director of National Intelligence’s Intelligence Community Directive accreditation.”

Cloud classifications below Impact Level 6 are not authorized to store classified information, meaning that, without a private provider authorized at that level, federal agencies must use their own data centers and facilities rather than a cloud service provider.

According to the blog post, the new cloud offering features two geographically separated locations to ensure operation in the event of a natural disaster which are operated by cleared U.S. citizens.

The announcement comes less than a week after the Department of Defense announced that Microsoft was one of the two companies still under consideration for its $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract.

One of the requirements of the contract is that the cloud service provider be able to carry secret-level data.

Microsoft also announced that, in a partnership with DoD, it had expanded its Impact Level 5 provisional authorization, which includes data that is controlled but not classified, to cover all government regions.