Ross Wilkers

EMERGING TECH

Inside Elastic's method of scouting for integrators & opportunities

In the broader story of technology scouting in the federal market, there is the role of the systems integrator in partnering with companies from outside the traditional government contracting ecosystem to bring the latter group’s tools into the public sector.

But what about the other end of the equation, in how a commercial company finds a government services contractor to act as that bridge for the technology to get deployed inside an agency?

And why do they even want to play in the federal market anyway given the complex, bureaucratic and by-the-book nature of much of its technology acquisitions?

Many did not in the earlier part of this decade but mindsets have changed there just like they have in GovCon, Splunk Public Sector Vice President Frank Dimina said at our March 20 Power Breakfast on commercial technology.

“Now you’re seeing tech companies and cybersecurity companies in particular viewing the federal government as a way to validate their solution,” Dimina said. “It’s a must-play because if you get investment from In-Q-Tel or if Homeland Security buys your technology, it’s validation of your solution that it’s the real deal and your technology has value.”

I recently spoke with George Young, vice president of federal for Elastic, to get a perspective on how tech companies like his look inside the GovCon community for partners that can integrate their tools and make them work for agencies.

The company’s flagship product is “Elasticsearch,” an open source-based search engine the General Services Administration has adopted for use across 1,500 government websites. Young touted the open source piece as key so agencies can try out new capabilities as they go along in an agile, incremental delivery model without requiring large amounts of investment.

That approach also lets federal systems integrators who are partners with Elastic pitch in heavily to make them suitable for agencies to use -- which Young says companies like his are happy to get out of the way for.

“Our desire is not to do what the integrators do. We want to build a really great platform, add a lot of features to that platform and basically allow the integrators to do the last mile work,” Young told me. “There’s a certain amount of work that’s necessary to adopt this platform to do a wide variety of things.”

For example, Booz Allen Hamilton collaborates with Elastic on a project to help the Census Bureau use the search engine tool for analytics to help pull and organize data from the coming 2020 “Decennial” Census.

Leidos also is a strategic partner of Elastic along with other large systems integrators but the network of partners is not limited to that select group.

“There are a lot of these big SIs but also a lot of small boutique ones that are two-person companies that have been very successful in going into the government and bringing innovation very quickly to them,” Young said.

One case in point of finding those boutique companies came in the form of a Cyber Command competition that sees Cybercom bring in multiple integrators to see what solution sets they have to offer in cyber analytics.

Young told me the field was initially 50, then a downselect reduced the group to 10 and half of the latter group included Elasticsearch as the underlying technology they brought to bear.

“There were a lot of different flavors of Elasticsearch that Cyber Command got to see as part of that bake off they did… everything from smaller boutique integrators to larger integrators,” Young said.

Partnerships such as those Elastic has are one main way forward for agencies to bring new innovations in quickly given the constant dialogue they have with the integrator community whose mission knowledge is a key element, according to Young.

“It’s very valuable for us to have those folks because our business model is not predicated on putting in developers… to find the different applications within the spaces,” Young said. “There are a lot of organizations that have areas of specialty that they understand things.”

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at rwilkers@washingtontechnology.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also find and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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