Cisco Delivering Secure Collaboration in the Cloud, and Much More

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If cloud computing is the future of government information technology, then Cisco may be one of the most relevant companies in Washington, D.C.

Cisco’s FedRAMP authorization—granted by the Department of Health and Human Services—represents a significant development for both the company and the government. WebEx is the industry’s leading Web and video conferencing tool, powering more than 20 million online meetings every month. By gaining the FedRAMP seal of approval for security, Cisco can now offer these collaboration capabilities to Federal agencies backed by decades of experience in networking and security.

“For 30 years we’ve been connecting things,” said Andy Campbell, Cisco’s government cloud business development manager. “And there’s tremendous value in being able to connect across…compute and storage, network connectivity, the analytics that are driven from that connectivity, all the way through to being able to build private cloud instances, and then with our FedRAMP offerings being able to build public government cloud offerings that are really focused on productivity.”

Cisco’s FedRAMP-compliant WebEx Conferencing Service represents a broad collaboration-in-the-cloud suite of capabilities, including Meeting Center, which allows two or more people to meet and work as a team; Event Center enables online events or webinars; Training Center includes a full suite of capabilities to create online training courses from registration through testing; and WebEx Support Center for troubleshooting.

“The purpose of our FedRAMP offering is really to bring all of Cisco’s commercial software-as-a-service offerings to our government customers that have a requirement or a strong preference for FedRAMP authorization or security controls,” said Nick Michaelides, Cisco’s Federal Vice President. “More broadly, we’re investing in FedRAMP authorizations for things like collaboration, Cisco meeting rooms, security-as-a-service, analytics, Internet of Things, and more.”

In fact, WebEx is just the beginning of Cisco’s FedRAMP push, according to Michaelides. The company’s strategy actually involves plans to certify all of its commercial SaaS offerings through FedRAMP, starting next with its Hosted Collaboration Solution for Government (HCS-G) in the fall.

“Our purpose is not to stop at WebEx. The next capability on the horizon is HCS-G. And our long-term intent is to take every Cisco commercial Software as a Service (SaaS) offering through the FedRAMP authorization process,” Michaelides said.

Cisco has significantly strengthened its Federal cloud position through recent strategic acquisitions. For example, on April 15, the company completed its acquisition of CliQr Technologies Inc.—an application defined cloud orchestration platform that enables organizations to model, deploy, and manage applications across any cloud environment.

“You now have a single pane of glass to allow you to manage multiple clouds very, very easily,” Michaelides said.

Another key to Cisco’s ability to help Federal agencies manage and secure their data across many clouds is the company’s own Intercloud Fabric, which it launched in 2014 to leverage the power of the network to securely connect and manage workloads in a world dominated by hybrid cloud computing.

“Cisco InterCloud allows us to be in a unique position to help our customers navigate a world of many clouds. It allows us to move workloads from your private cloud in a data center out to a public cloud, and bring it back in a secure manner,” Michaelides said. “Cisco’s focus is really on data security, whether it is in transit or at rest.”

And that’s where Cisco’s larger strategy—beyond SaaS—really comes into focus.

“My mind doesn’t stop at SaaS,” Michaelides said. “We’ve been helping agencies build out private clouds and next-generation data centers for several years now, and we’ve been very successful in delivering infrastructure convergence, which is compute, network, and storage,” he said.

Initially, most of Cisco’s government customers embarked upon a journey focused on private cloud build-outs. “We believe the next step in this journey is to move to more of a hybrid cloud model, where private and public clouds can interoperate together and share workloads in a secure, compliant manner. And we think Cisco will be a key player in enabling these hybrid clouds.”

“Cisco is the only provider able to stand in front of a customer and meet them where they are in their journey, and then secure [their data] all the way through,” Campbell said. “That’s the value when it comes to our cloud offerings. FedRAMP is one part of how we build across that public, private, and hybrid cloud continuum and allow customers to leverage what they have in the way they need to use it.”

Dan Verton
About Dan Verton
MeriTalk Executive Editor Dan Verton is a veteran journalist and winner of the First Place Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for Best News Reporting -- the highest award in the nation for business/trade journalism. Dan earned a Master's Degree in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University in Washington, D.C., and has spent the last 20 years in the nation's capital reporting on government, enterprise technology, policy and national cybersecurity. He’s also a former intelligence officer in the United States Marine Corps, has authored three books on cybersecurity, and has testified on critical infrastructure protection before both House and Senate committees.
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