The recent service degradation at a Microsoft datacenter that occurred two weeks ago had a limited impact on Singapore Government services, according to Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information.

He stated that prior to this incident, cloud service providers had been able to meet the government’s requirement to be available at least 99.9% of the time. He emphasized that the services are frequently monitored to ensure compliance with agreed service levels and stringent security standards.

“GovTech is working with Microsoft to fully restore affected services,” Dr Janil said, “and to prevent similar occurrences in the future.”

He added that, in general, cloud service providers offer better availability, scalability, and cost efficiency, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when Singapore quickly deployed services to support national efforts, such as contact tracing, proximity tracking, and the distribution of face masks.

Dr Janil Puthucheary was responding to a parliamentary question filed by Ms Poh Li San, People’s Action Party (PAP)’s Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC, on Wednesday (22 Feb).

Ms Poh asked how the government’s web services and data hosted on commercial data centers can be assured of availability and data security, and what the government’s procurement policy is regarding web services and data hosted in data centers owned by Singaporean firms versus foreign companies.

On 8 February, a power outage in Microsoft Azure cloud services disrupted connectivity for various platforms, including those belonging to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board, EZ-Link, Esplanade, and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). All affected services appeared to have returned to full functionality the day after.

Ms Poh inquired about the government’s strategy to diversify the use of various cloud services and data center providers that host various government-linked functions.

In response, Dr Janil revealed that the government’s cloud services are hosted by three different service providers.

“There is already some diversity in the contractual arrangements that we have and the provision of services from the commercial sector,” he stated.

He added that the government will continue to improve the resilience of its cloud service providers and maintain the necessary standards.

Dr Janil stated that Singapore’s government intends for 70% of its services to be on cloud providers by 2023, in response to a question from Ms Poh about whether the government is planning to own cloud service for maximizing control.

“We’re on track to meet that target. And so already we have plans, and we have planned for some of our services to be controlled by the government directly,”

He added. “These would primarily be those that support the work of the security services and associated agencies.”

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