Cloud Computing

Dealing with the FedRAMP deadline

FedRAMP logo -- GSA image

Just ahead of the deadline for federal certification of security for cloud operations, agency officials in charge of the initiative and cloud service providers said the program has spurred new ways of thinking about federal IT.

The Office of Management and Budget set June 5 as the deadline for vendors to be certified by the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), which sets up a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. The General Services Administration manages the program.

"There are still some equipment-huggers out there," GSA's FedRAMP Director Maria Roat said in an interview with FCW, referring to some federal users who might still cling to the physical servers and networks that are being inexorably replaced by infrastructure and services in the cloud.

Documents to be Released by GSA on June 6

Security Assessment Templates Updates:

  • Updated the FedRAMP baseline security requirements to align with NIST 800-53 Revision 4
  • Updated Templates to include the new security baseline, which includes a System Security Plan and Security Assessment Plan

Guidance Document Updates:

  • Revision 4 Transition Timeframe
  • FedRAMP Security Assessment Framework (formerly the CONOPS)
  • Guide to Understanding FedRAMP
  • Continuous Monitoring Strategy and Guide

But aside from the occasional hard case, agencies and cloud service providers have adapted to and embraced the FedRAMP process as it rolled forward. "The culture is shifting," said Roat. The level of detail provided by cloud service providers in the certification process has opened up a new level of transparency among providers and agencies. "That had been lacking in the process."

GSA FedRAMP Program Manager Matt Goodrich, agreed. "The tech is easy. Culture change is hard," he said.

Goodrich said agencies have accepted that they don't all need unique IT facilities, and that many functions are commodities best served by the cloud.

When they do, Roat said, they can plan accordingly. She noted that the Department of Homeland Security has components that will require some unique capabilities that FedRAMP's cloud security might not address, while others will fit well within FedRAMP. "FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] needs to get out in the cloud" to facilitate a wide-ranging, publicly oriented mission, while the Secret Service may not want to have anything in the public cloud, she said.

Because cloud services don't really have a firm definition and cross many lines, some potential CSPs have considered and reconsidered which path to take to get certification as the deadline approached.

As of June 4, there were 11 FedRAMP-certified service providers listed on GSA's FedRAMP website under the Joint Authorization Board provisional authorizations. The JAB is the primary governance and decision-making body for the FedRAMP program. Another four CSPs have agency-sponsored authorization. More than a dozen others are in the JAB queue awaiting certification, Goodrich said.

The majority of the authorized companies are listed as cloud infrastructure-as-as-service (IaaS) providers including AT&T, Hewlett-Packard and Amazon Web Services. Only a few are listed as platform-as-a-service (PaaS) or software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers, including MicroSoft, Oracle and AINS Inc.

With cloud providers constructing their offerings in a myriad of ways, paths to authorization vary. Customer resource management services provider SalesForce.com announced May 30 that it received authority to operate on its government cloud, both for PaaS and SaaS, in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services.

"Since we've been supporting government for such a long time, HHS was a logical sponsor," said Dave Rey, Salesforce.com's senior vice president public sector. "The last several months has been dedicated to working with HHS" on certification, he said, adding that the certification gives the company a boost not only among federal customers, but state governments seeking secure cloud solutions as well.

At the same time, reverse auction provider FedBid rethought its approach to authorization.

While initially considering seeking JAB compliance, FedBid opted to wait for an agency sponsor, all the while keeping up with the program's security documentation, said Joe Jordan, president of the company's public sector operations and former White House administrator for the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. The company reconsidered after consulting with a third-party contractor to determine the best path forward.

"We're not really a cloud service provider," Jordan said, adding he will wait until an agency sponsors the company through the certification process. "We have a team ready."

GSA will continue to help providers and users work through the process -- an industry workshop was held at its headquarters June 4 and another federal agency workshop is scheduled for June 10. The day after the deadline, the FedRAMP Program Management Office is also set to publish a bevy of updated security control baselines and new templates to reflect changes in revision 4 of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's SP 800-53 security control baseline.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a staff writer at FCW.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group