In areas ranging from analytics to workforce management, these firms are making their mark in federal IT.
The to-do list seemingly never stops growing for federal IT managers. They must keep up with developments in mobile technology, comb through data for key information nuggets, and evaluate cloud computing options — to name just a few challenges.
On top of that, they also need to find tools to help their agencies better manage technology assets and human resources in a time of budget constraints.
FCW's annual list of companies to watch emphasizes products and services that address the government's key challenges. We chose the 16 companies based on a number of factors, including how well they were represented on contract vehicles, their ability to make strategic alliances with other companies and their efforts to reach out to the federal market.
Big data and analytics
Big data, which has been on the federal radar for a while, is becoming almost mainstream. The technology is being put to more and more uses, with applications ranging from marketing to meteorology. Companies making moves into the federal big-data space include Sqrrl Data, Kognitio and Kapow Software.
Sqrrl Enterprise is a big-data platform for creating analytical applications. It runs on Apache Accumulo, a database developed by the National Security Agency and now an open-source project. Accumulo integrates with Hadoop, a software framework that enables organizations to process very large sets of data.
"We are seeing Accumulo adoption rapidly spread across the federal government," said Ely Kahn, Sqrrl's co-founder and vice president of business development.
He said Accumulo spread from NSA across the Defense Department, the intelligence community, and civilian agencies such as the departments of Homeland Security and Justice.
Kognitio, meanwhile, offers a big-data analytics platform that uses memory instead of disk space for storage. The company's technology debuted in the financial sector, but it is also carving a niche in the federal government. Kognitio and DMG Federal, an IT consulting firm with a specialty in business intelligence, joined forces earlier this year to provide cloud-based data analytics to federal agencies and other public-sector entities.
Kapow Software's area of emphasis is big-data integration. The company said agencies increasingly use its software for open-source intelligence tasks, such as gauging public sentiment and tracking illegal online sales of pharmaceuticals, and to provide critical infrastructure protection. The Department of Health and Human Services and other civilian agencies, meanwhile, tap Kapow Software to help them migrate content to new standardized or enterprise content management systems.
"The government is starting to use big data to revolutionize health care, national security and citizen services," said Andy Lasko, technical alliance manager at Kapow Software. "The gap we see in the market is in products that enable you access to any content quickly, to rapidly move that content into the customer systems and formats used to analyze big data."
Security concerns have been an obstacle to greater government cloud adoption. The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) seeks to address agency concerns by establishing a security assessment standard for cloud software and services providers.
In December 2012, Autonomic Resources became the first cloud provider to receive a provisional authority to operate under FedRAMP. Since then, the company has expanded its FedRAMP-approved Autonomic Resources Cloud-Platform, and it recently launched a program that lets federal contractors, integrators and consulting firms resell ARC-P to government agencies.
In addition, cloud service brokers are attracting attention in the federal sector. "We're seeing a very strong level of interest across many different agencies," said Steve Crawford, vice president of marketing and business development at Jamcracker. The company offers a cloud services delivery platform for brokers and has launched a dedicated government business development group in response to the growing level of activity.
For example, the General Services Administration and Defense Information Systems Agency issued requests for information on the cloud broker model last year. More recently, GSA issued a request for quotations for a proof of concept, which the agency plans to implement in fiscal 2014, Crawford said.
Verizon Terremark, meanwhile, in fiscal 2013 captured an Interior Department Foundation Cloud Hosting Services contract, which the company views as potentially one of Verizon's largest ever federal cloud contracts. The company was also awarded a blanket purchase agreement by the Agriculture Department to accelerate cloud computing initiatives.
Enterprise mobile app development
Mobile technology is the way to go if federal agencies truly want to reach citizens — and support employee productivity. Gartner forecasts that worldwide shipments of mobile phones and tablets will surpass 2 billion units this calendar year, while PC shipments will decline 10.6 percent during the same period.
Against that backdrop, a number of companies are actively addressing agencies' interest in developing mobile applications for employee use in bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environments.
Adobe Systems is the key developer behind PhoneGap, a framework for developing cross-platform mobile apps based on the open-source Apache Cordova. The company purchased PhoneGap's originator, Nitobi Software, in 2011.
A number of government entities use PhoneGap, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, NASA, and agencies at the state and local levels.
Brian Paget, technical director of content and analytics at Adobe, said PhoneGap "keeps the cost of BYOD initiatives down by allowing agencies to develop an app once and deploy that app to Apple, Android, BlackBerry, etc., which cuts the cost of developing cross-platform apps by half or more."
Verivo Software, which offers an enterprise mobile app development platform, counts the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. among its government customers. The company also has a presence with state and local agencies.
"We have seen most federal organizations recognize the BYOD trend." -- T.L. Neff, Verivo.
"We have seen most federal organizations recognize the BYOD trend, and that has led them to focus on identifying and developing enterprise mobile apps that increase workforce efficiency and leverage the computing horsepower now available," said T.L. Neff, executive vice president of global client services at Verivo.
"It has also led to a rise in the use of enterprise mobility platforms to gain further control over the mobile app development process," he added.
Mobile Reach, a provider of enterprise mobility software solutions, has made the military and government systems integrators key markets for its products. The company has found government business in asset and equipment management projects in which smartphones or bar code scanners are used to update a central asset repository.
Agencies need to do more than find better ways to develop mobile applications — they must secure the apps as well.
Fixmo, which provides mobile risk management solutions, said the Air Force is expanding its use of Fixmo's mobile device management, device integrity verification, and secure container solutions for smartphones and tablets. The company also worked with DISA, Samsung and General Dynamics to develop the Security Technical Implementation Guides governing the use of the Samsung KNOX security solution for Samsung's Galaxy smartphones.
"The use of mobile technology is reaching a critical inflection point within the U.S. federal government and the Department of Defense," said Bruce Gilley, president of Fixmo U.S. "It's no longer about remote access to email and calendaring. It's about empowering government employees and warfighters to take full advantage of the latest innovations in commercial mobile technology to execute on their missions in the most efficient and effective way possible."
KoolSpan develops hardware-based encryption and security applications for smartphones, tablets, desktop PCs, laptops and servers. As part of its government push, the company announced hardware-based voice encryption for iPhones.
And in the field of secure mobile file sharing, Accellion counts NASA, the Coast Guard and the Energy Department among its federal customers. The company was also included on Interior's Foundation Cloud Hosting Services vehicle.
As data continues to accumulate at astounding rates, agencies need to get the most out of their storage resources. They also need to boost storage performance to keep pace with virtualized environments and protect data at rest.
Atlantis Computing, which offers storage input/output acceleration through its ILIO software, won new federal customers in fiscal 2013, including the Army, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and DOE. The company also recently entered into a partnering arrangement with IBM to provide three bundles focused on the federal sector. The bundles target virtual desktop environments and combine IBM storage systems with ILIO software.
"Solutions that can reduce [capital and operating expenditures] continue to enjoy significant adoption in the fed space." -- Joel Davis, Atlantis Computing.
"Solutions that can reduce [capital and operating expenditures] continue to enjoy significant adoption in the fed space, as the large deployed IT infrastructure requires significant ongoing investment for continuing operations," said Joel Davis, vice president of North America sales at Atlantis Computing.
"Data center virtualization, development of private and/or hybrid clouds, and desktop virtualization are three of the areas that we see the most growth with our fed engagements," he added.
CommVault, makers of Simpana data and information management software, has been bolstering its security profile. In January, the company announced that its Simpana 9 software had received the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command's Certificate of Networthiness. NIST, meanwhile, has validated Simpana 9 as compliant with Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2.
Agencies are exploring workforce management systems, and much of the activity is in cloud or shared-services environments. Monster Government Solutions landed various projects with the Department of Veterans Affairs and also works with the Treasury Department's HR Connect Program Office. Other efforts include the Northern Virginia Technology Council's Veterans Employment Initiative.
And Kronos, which provides its workforce management solutions in the cloud, has seen several agencies recently move forward with its offering enterprisewide, including VA and the Social Security Administration. All told, 11 out of 15 executive departments use Kronos enterprisewide.