MeriTalk, a public-private partnership focused on improving the outcomes of government IT, this week launched three new cloud computing initiatives intended to help accelerate cloud computing adoption across the Federal government.

FedRAMP411 – New Information Resource
FedRAMP 411 will serve as a source of news, information, and insight on the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), which acts as the government’s security seal of approval for IT solutions in the cloud.

FedRAMP411 will report on FedRAMP standards, the products the program governs, and emerging issues relevant to the program.

In addition to continuous news, FedRAMP411 will be built around these key features:

  • Gov Cloud Shopper: A unique tool that incorporates real pricing data to help government cloud consumers develop a rough estimate of cloud costs and then drill down to define their requirements
  • CSPs at a glance: A comprehensive, sortable, and searchable database of all the vendors and products either already certified or in the pipeline and working toward certification
  • 3PAO Performance: A complete lineup of Third-Party Authorization Organizations (3PAOs), including performance metrics for helping clients achieve FedRAMP authorization

FedRAMP Fast Forward – New Advocacy Group
MeriTalk this week also unveiled FedRAMP Fast Forward, a FedRAMP-focused industry advocacy group. FedRAMP Fast Forward will bring together cloud service providers (CSPs)and other interested parties to provide an industry perspective to support and inform. The group also hopes to speed up the FedRAMP process and accelerate the adoption of secure cloud solutions throughout the Federal government.

The group will hold periodic meetings with FedRAMP Program Director Matt Goodrich and will include working groups to drill down on technical standards, provide recommendations to enhance and streamline the FedRAMP Authority to Operate (ATO) process, and ensure those efforts don’t compromise the integrity of existing standards. FedRAMP Fast Forward also intends to champion FedRAMP as a standard for use across regulated and adjacent industries, including state and local government, education, healthcare, financial services, energy, and international entities.

Industry members will contribute $5,000 to participate in monthly conference calls, quarterly meetings and working group sessions.

“Today, it costs $4 million to $5 million for CSPs to attain a FedRAMP ATO – and still more to maintain that ATO,” said Steve O’Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk. “The typical duration is 18 months. In April 2014, 24 CSPs were in the pipeline awaiting certification, according to data from the MeriTalk FedRAMP411 CSP database. One year later, 16 of those same CSPs were still in the pipeline awaiting approval.”

Meanwhile, he said, a growing number of vendors are stuck in the FedRAMP pipeline, spending money and losing time. And agency buyers, confused about commercial offerings and even the FedRAMP mandate, are not all observing the standard.

FedRAMP Fast Forward will focus on all those issues and pursue a series of critical objectives, including:

  • Supporting the FedRAMP PMO and making the case for funding commensurate with burden and responsibility
  • Showcasing FedRAMP agency success stories and providing quantifiable metrics on the number of installed FedRAMP solutions across government
  • Quantifying the cost savings the government and industry have realized via the FedRAMP process
  • Providing clarity for SaaS and PaaS offerings, and whether certification requirements can be reduced for those hosting services on FedRAMP-compliant IaaS.

Gov Cloud Shopper (GCS) – New Research and Purchasing Tool
A new tool developed by MeriTalk, GCS enables Federal agencies to develop an initial cost estimate based on publicly available pricing data from Amazon Web Services, CenturyLink, IBM, Microsoft, and VMware. Data from additional providers will be added to the estimator as it becomes available. GCS also allows agency buyers to define their cloud computing specifications, including their service-level agreement requirements, and submit their specifications to government-approved cloud providers for a quote.

GCS takes agencies through a three-step process:

  • The Cloud Cost Estimator allows users to define their agency’s hardware requirements and provides price estimates for compatible systems, accounting for not only hosting charges, but also professional services such as initial set up, managed services, and compliance costs
  • The Cloud Requirements Designer enables users to select key services and deliverables required of cloud solutions in order to meet their agency’s needs. The result is a complete requirements outline for the specific agency cloud project
  • And the Cloud Quote Request allows users to submit their requirements outline and request quotes from FedRAMP-certified and approved vendors under available cloud contract vehicles

Cloud Coalition – New Umbrella Group
O’Keeffe said the Gov Cloud Shopper, FedRAMP 411, FedRAMP Forward, Cloud Computing Exchange, and the Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group are all united under the new Cloud Coalition.

“We know Federal agencies are hungry for information, best practices and tools that can help them implement FedRAMP-compliant cloud computing solutions, and industry is eager to help them,” he said. “The MeriTalk Cloud Coalition is designed to bring together government and industry in a partnership to streamline agency acquisition and industry FedRAMP certification, and ultimately make good on the Cloud First promise.”

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MeriTalk Staff