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Federal Agencies Using Azure To Store Data

Microsoft has set up a repository in which government agencies may upload and store their public-facing datasets so that they can be reused by other parties.

Agency developers can upload their data to the Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI) through Microsoft Azure, the company's cloud computing offering.

Potential users can then access the resulting datasets via a Web page or an RSS feed. They can also query a large dataset on the Web page by formulating an ADO.NET Data Services query.

Perhaps more importantly, the data can be ingested by other computer programs, as well, using either a Representational State Transfer (REST)-based Web service, a JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) call or, if the data is geographic in nature, through the Keyhole Markup Language (KML), among other protocols.

OGDI came about as a way to introduce Azure to the federal information technology community, said Susie Adams, Microsoft Federal chief technology officer. The division built a starter kit that acts as a guide for how agencies can post data to Azure using Visual Studio. The data is stored in Azure, in SQL Tables. Eventually, Microsoft will move Azure data over to its SQL Data Services, Adams said.

As examples, Microsoft has assembled two sets of government data on the site: a compilation of per-diem rates from the GSA and a number of data feeds from Washington, D.C.

Each dataset also includes sample code that can be inserted into other programs that will allow them to access the data automatically. The code comes in the C#, PHP, Python, ActionScript, JavaScript, Silverlight and Ruby languages.

In addition to Microsoft's effort, at least one other company has volunteered to rehost government data for wider use: Amazon is offering to store public-domain datasets for users of its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the chief technology editor of Government Computing News (GCN.com).

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