IBM’s government cloud gets FedRAMP approval

IBM’s(s ibm) SmartCloud for Government now has the U.S. government-sanctioned FedRAMP approval that should make it easier for IBM to sell cloud technologies into multiple government agencies.

All cloud providers wanting to provide IT infrastructure under government contracts must get “Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program” certified by June 2014. Amazon(s amzn) Web Services, which is increasingly seen as a big rival to IBM — especially after beating IBM to win the CIA cloud contract¬†— got its approval in May. Microsoft(s msft) Windows Azure got its accreditation in September.

The SmartCloud for Government does not yet incorporate technology from SoftLayer, the cloud provider IBM bought for about $2 billion in June. An IBM spokesman said the company is preparing a SoftLayer government cloud which should be available early next year will “achieve all the necessary security requirements as well.” IBM recently notified users of its SmartCloud Enterprise product that they will be transitioned over to SoftLayer, according to a VentureBeat report.

Other accredited providers are Akamai(s akam), AT&T(s t), Autonomic Resources, CGI Federal, Hewlett-Packard(s hpq) and Lockheed Martin.

The stakes are huge. The U.S. government’s Cloud First initiative is pushing agencies to deploy more IT on cloud as a cost-saving and efficiency-boosting measure. That means tens of billions in spending over the next few years. After next year’s deadline, vendors have to be approved to compete for those jobs.

Note: this story was updated at 5:31 p.m. PST to reflect IBM’s plans to transition SmartCloud Enterprise users to SoftLayer.