Ross Wilkers


How Elastic prioritizes speed & partnerships in the federal market

Elastic’s federal market strategy goes like this: build the best possible open source search products, continually upgrade them and work with systems integrators to roll the tools out for agencies.

It is that group of federal technology services contractors that can show up with Elastic products to help agencies reimagine their data management approaches and often in quicker iterations, the company’s head of federal told WT.

George Young, who leads the business as a vice president, offered up as an example of such partnerships with integrators a collaboration that Elastic’s federal unit recently undertook with Accenture.

The specific project was not named. But Young told me that Accenture brought to one of its clients Elastic’s tool and assembled a group of staffers to train on and build their own proofs of concepts within 20 hours.

“They were able to take those to their users and say ‘Hey look, in 20 hours we built this, and you can have some dashboards and live information, and it’s on your data,’” Young said. “The users hadn’t spent any time investing, paying Accenture Federal any money associated with it, but they were able to start getting the art of the possible without a major lift on their part and without a major lift on Accenture’s part.”

What is often described as a traditional schedule for buying and integrating technology can include needing 12 months to assimilate it. Young said it could be between three and four years from first to final step before the product goes live for agencies.

“We think that’s the future of where things are going. People are going to be able to see this, get some ideas, know that this small thing I’m looking at can scale into petabytes of data,” Young said.

“In this more agile world, people are able to say ‘Look, I spent less than a week on this, and I have a rough idea, and I actually can see it on my own data,” Young added. “So that when I go to procure something… I’ve seen it in my environment around my data and I’ve got a good idea of what it can do. Now I know I may have to provide some more resources to scale it up.”

One project Elastic can talk in more detail about might serve as a test case for how to continually iterate a product as the environment changes with a leading systems integrator as the partner to help scale the tool out.

ECS Federal in May won the Homeland Security Department contract to integrate and roll out a new dashboard for the government-wide Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation cyber program.

Elastic’s Stack will be the centerpiece of the dashboard for civilian agencies to track cyber threats and vulnerabilities by ingesting, analyzing and visualizing data. DHS and ECS envision the Elastic Stack as essentially acting as the dashboard data store to augment and in some cases replace legacy components.

“They (DHS) are bringing in a lot of data right now but they also had enough foresight to realize that whatever data they’re bringing in now is going to be 10 times that over the next few years,” Young told me.

Young said one of the first tasks for getting the dashboard ready to go is retrofit those that already exist in agencies’ underlying technology stacks. He told me that ECS will also work with the other CDM prime contractors to support the groups of agencies they have been assigned.

Then comes the part of rolling the dashboard out and achieving functionality the way DHS envisioned it, a period that Young estimated could take nine months.

“Over time, once we get past this first phase, then there will be the opportunity to go further and do things like threat hunting and more sophisticated analytics,” Young said.

Elastic has also been busy in building up its own cyber portfolio to offer enterprise users and found what it sees as the right add-on in Endgame, the endpoint detection and defense outfit acquired in October.

Like for the CDM dashboard, data management and storage is the other part of the equation Young highlighted in describing what the Endgame deal means for Elastic’s federal-facing efforts.

“A large missing piece in federal cybersecurity is gathering that endpoint data and doing something with it. The vast majority of federal organizations we talk to, if they have an endpoint solution in place, are not keeping the data for very long if they have it,” Young said.

Here again is a case in point of where Elastic’s changes on the technical and business fronts go hand-in-hand and explain the broader trend of how agencies are acquiring and using new technology.

“We basically now have made endpoint as something we don’t charge for, we charge for the storage of the data in Elastic,” Young said, adding that model “makes it much more affordable for people to keep large quantities of endpoint data for long periods of time.”

About the Author

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

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