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US: Feds Issue First Cloud Services Security Authorization
Source: www.informationweek.com
Source Date: Friday, December 28, 2012
Country: United States
Created: Jan 03, 2013

FedRAMP, which aims to make it easier and more cost-effective for government agencies to adopt cloud services, is now officially open for business with the authorization of Autonomic Resources ARC-P service.

In a bid to accelerate and make more cost-effective the adoption of cloud computing, the federal government Thursday issued the first government-wide security authorization for a cloud computing service as part of the new Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP).

The FedRAMP program will eventually be a mandatory, common approach to ensuring that cloud computing services meet federal cybersecurity requirements. It will replace the historically agency-by-agency and therefore often duplicative approach to certifying that services meet these requirements. For now, though, almost 19 months after being announced, FedRAMP is still just getting off the ground.

In issuing the authorization on Thursday, the General Services Administration met its goal of finalizing its first security authorization by the end of 2012 and vaulted little-known North Carolina-based government contractor Autonomic Resources LLC, which received the authorization, into the public eye.

The authorization process required Autonomic Resources to implement and thoroughly document its implementation of dozens of required FedRAMP security controls in the vendor's ARC-P infrastructure-as-a-service offering, and had auditors from cybersecurity consultancy the Veris Group verify and test those controls. The authority to operate granted by GSA serves as proof that Autonomic Resources meets federal cybersecurity requirements for cloud services, and enables any government agency to use ARC-P.

Autonomic Resources' ARC-P is a community cloud infrastructure-as-a-service offering that can provide federal agencies with managed and unmanaged virtual machines. Autonomic Resources hires only employees with government security clearances to manage its cloud operations.

The company, which offers a variety of cloud and other managed services to government agencies, counts among its customers the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the Navy, the National Institutes of Health, and a number of state and local governments. It has also been awarded contracts as part of several broader GSA contract vehicles, such as the government-wide cloud email contract vehicle.

Dave McClure, associate administrator of GSA's Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, which has played a leading role in developing FedRAMP, estimates that agencies using FedRAMP will save $200,000 per authorization. While the authorization for Autonomic Resources is a start, agencies likely won't start seeing real savings until more prominent, commonly used services providers have their services authorized as part of FedRAMP.

While Autonomic Resources received the first FedRAMP authorization, larger cloud service providers and government contractors are sure to follow. About 80 companies have applied for FedRAMP authorization since GSA began accepting applicants this summer, and GSA said in a statement Thursday that more authorizations are expected in "early 2013."

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