Alastair Mitchell, CEO and co-founder of Huddle. (Huddle)
Cloud computing firm Huddle knows the perks of being backed by the CIA’s nonprofit investment arm, In-Q-Tel.
The San Francisco-based company has steadily expanded its U.S. customer base to include the Health and Human Services and Defense departments, following a strategic partnership last year in which In-Q-Tel invested an undisclosed amount of money to develop a version of Huddle’s solution for the intel community (IC).
Huddle also is in talks with IC officials about the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise strategy (ICITE), a five-year effort to standardize IT operations across the IC, said Alastair Mitchell, Huddle’s co-founder and CEO.
“It would be a very natural fit for that program,” he said.
Under its agreement with In-Q-Tel, Huddle has been developing a version of its content collaboration platform for the Homeland Security Department and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Mitchell said, adding that the work was formally launched within the past six months.
Mitchell wouldn’t say how many users at those agencies will have access to Huddle’s collaboration platform. But he did say the capabilities being rolled out are large implementations, as opposed to pilot programs.
For its role in the ICITE strategy, NGA, along with the Defense Intelligence Agency, has stood up the first iteration of the IC desktop, which supports about 2,000 DIA and NGA users, IC Chief Information Officer Al Tarasiuk said in September. That service will be scaled up to support the entire IC, providing standard email services and messaging and collaboration tools for employees to communicate across agencies.
Tarasiuk didn’t say which technologies were being used, but Huddle appears to be a potential candidate for the job.
The Web-based platform allows agencies and their community of users to store, share and collaborate on content. Data can be stored in agency data centers, as is generally the case with military and intel customers, or in data centers reserved for government and their users and managed by Huddle partner Carpathia.
Huddle’s agency cloud offering was built to meet the government’s FISMA security standards, and is in the process of being certified under the government’s security cloud program, called FedRAMP. Each workspace created in Huddle is private and accessible to specified users from any device, and data stored by Huddle are encrypted, according to the company.
But agencies want to see more than a checklist of security credentials, Mitchell said. They want to know a company’s cloud solution is being used by other government agencies.
“That’s where we win,” he said. “It’s not just having the check boxes, but it’s about having the credibility and the backing of government itself.”
Huddle is an In-Q-Tel investment to help the IC move to the cloud, and it’s invested in by the taxpayer.
Huddle isn’t a total newcomer to government business. The company works with more than 80 percent of the U.K. government and is working with the National Reconnaissance Office, HTC, Kia Motors, and governments in Greenland. Huddle also is building its business in Australia.
Huddle markets itself as an alternative to Microsoft’s SharePoint collaboration software, which is widely used across government. In a November blog post, Mitchell criticized what he called SharePoint’s failure to adequately support mobile work, and the software’s ability to do almost anything, but not very well.
“A lot of people would disagree with that,” said Susie Adams, chief technology officer for Microsoft’s federal government business. Adams said Microsoft continues to see strong adoption of SharePoint, including the cloud-based option known as SharePoint Online, which allows users to access and edit files on mobile devices.
“There are people in the marketplace trying to capitalize on cloud” who say “my product is better,” Adams said. But “competition is good for the marketplace.”