The Justice Department opens Box on cloud collaboration

Profile picture for user slauchlan By Stuart Lauchlan May 27, 2015
Summary:
Box just picked up a good deal with the Department of Justice, but US government cloud adoption has a long way to go.

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Box CEO Aaron Levie has federal ambitions

Box just picked up a nice deal with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), taking its total of federal government customers up and over the 40 mark.

The DOJ will be employing Box for a number of reasons:

  • to simplify internal and external collaboration between component agencies and third party organizations.
  • to support mobile and offline access to content for employees.
  • to reduce the complexity of infrastructure by eliminating fragmented content.

In a statement, Box goes into more detail:

There is an increasing need to securely connect and enable processes across agencies and jurisdictions as well as to connect government employees with their data, content, and stakeholders. Innovative government agencies, like DOJ, are deeply committed to leveraging emerging cloud technologies to better serve the American people, while ensuring the security and privacy of sensitive information.

DOJ is leveraging Box to improve the effectiveness and impact of its mission and put valuable information at their staff’s fingertips. More specifically, DOJ selected Box to simplify internal and external collaboration with key stakeholders and third party organizations and support mobile and offline access to critical business information for employees regardless of location. Additionally, with Box, DOJ is able to eliminate fragmented content and document management tools, reducing infrastructure complexity.

Box also picks up an agency Authorization to Operate, allowing the DOJ to leverage the Box platform across all its component agencies, increasing the supplier's footprint.

Beyond that, there's not much information. There's no value attributed to the  new DOJ contract. It’s also not clear how many DOJ employees will get access to the Box cloud.

But it's a good stepping stone for the cloud collaboration firm. The company has serious ambitions in the government sector, hiring Sonny Hashmi, former CIO of the General Services Administration, to head this up.

The firm is however still waiting to get certified for Federal Risk and Authorisation Management Program (FedRAMP), the government program to speed up cloud deployments within federal agencies following a uniform approach and security guidelines.

Box has been beaten to the mark here by rival UK-based Huddle, which won FedRAMP compliance in March. Huddle’s made a major impact in the UK public sector and since opening offices in San Francisco and Washington has been making a similar play stateside.

FedRAMP certification is important. According to a new report from Forbes Insights and Microsoft, there is a tipping point for government agencies when it comes to moving systems to the cloud as concerns around data sovereignty, privacy and security abate as FedRAMP’s impact is felt.

Good news, bad news

Meanwhile a new study by MeriTalk and Accenture Federal Services has some good news for Box, Huddle and others in the collaboration space.

According to an online study of 150 US Federal IT managers, 78% of respondents said they needed to invest in collaboration to succeed in cloud adoption.

The study also puts forward the intriguing notion that the catalyst for cloud adoption may be DevOps. Two thirds of respondents pointed to DevOps as being the force to help government agencies get with the cloud program.

Some headline numbers:

  • 57%  believe DevOps can help agencies succeed in the cloud.
  • 63% say DevOps will speed application delivery and migration.
  • 68% see DevOps as a viable path to improve collaboration between IT development, security, and operations teams.
  • 70% believe increasing their cloud adoption pace will boost innovation.
  • 69% reckons they can refresh existing applications and deploy new ones faster.
  • 62% believe cloud adoption will provide more available, reliable, and secure operations.

On the downside:

  • 42% cite infrastructure complexity as a barrier to adoption.
  • 40% state the main problem remains fear of change.
  • 40% also point to inflexible practices as an inhibitor.
  • 35% say there's no clear strategy to follow.
  • Only 12% reckon that their IT department has the tools necessary for successful cloud adoption.

Earlier this month, MeriTalk produced an inaugural report on behalf of the Congressional Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group, a non-profit, non-partisan coalition of technology companies and industry groups focused on educating lawmakers and the public about cloud computing. The report - ironically entitled Don't Be a Box Hugger - also reported a need for greater collaboration within government and agencies.

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Need more push for cloud from here?

Steve O'Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk, said at the time:

With Tony Scott, the new Federal CIO, at the White House and continued interest from the Hill in changing the failing status quo in Federal IT investments, we see real opportunity ahead for the acceleration of business transformation via cloud computing.

We need to accelerate the FedRAMP process, clarify Cloud First policy guidance, and encourage best practice exchange and collaboration among pioneers and fence sitters. Candidly, the box hugger phenomenon is likely a generational obstacle that time will address.

The Federal government needs to be transparent about how much it really plans to spend on cloud and what it really costs for commercial CSPs to play via certifications such as FedRAMP. Otherwise it's creating unrealistic market expectations that will draw industry to the government market, only to realize disappointment in the revenue opportunity.

My take

A nice scalp for Box to claim in a market that has yet to heat up. There's clearly a pressing need for increased collaboration within and across the US government. With intense competition from the likes of Huddle, Microsoft and Google, every win is going to count.