VMware Gets FedRAMP Certification, Sets Sights On Government Agencies Hungry For Hybrid Clouds

VMware said Thursday its vCloud Government Service, a version of its public cloud that's designed specifically for government agencies, is now officially available to customers.

VMware launched an early access program for the service last September, but wasn't able to sell it to customers until receiving certification from the U.S. Government's Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), which came this week.

FedRAMP certification is a requirement for all cloud vendors that want to sell to federal government agencies. Amazon Web Services got its FedRAMP certification in May 2013 and Microsoft Azure followed suit in September of that year.

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VMware isn't running vCloud Government Service from its own data centers; that's being handled by Carpathia, a Dulles, Va.-based service provider partner that has years of experience selling to federal government customers.

VMware has a huge base of government customers already running its vSphere server virtualization software in their data centers, and now they'll be able to move workloads back and forth to a FedRAMP-certified public cloud, Lynn Martin, vice president of public sector sales at VMware, told CRN.

Being able to move workloads is particularly important for government agencies, whose cloud capacity needs fluctuate over the course of the year, like the U.S. Postal Service, said Martin.

While some agencies have been using managed hosting to satisfy some of their workload mobility needs, now they'll have a genuine public cloud option, Martin said.

Will Jones, vice president of Carahsoft Technology Corp., a Reston, Va.-based VMware partner, said FedRAMP certification is "tremendously important" because it'll let his company go after a broader range of government customers.

Jones expects vCloud Government Service to be a hit because many of his customers already run VMware in their private clouds.

"Budgets have been tight in the federal space, and that's been challenging to our customers," Jones said. "But because this service is built on vSphere, they can leverage their existing investment instead of having to rearchitect everything."

Angelos Kottas, director of product marketing for vCloud Air, said VMware's government-focused public cloud service has been built with the vendor's NSX software-defined networking technology from the beginning.

VMware is now pitching NSX as a network security technology because it can stop an attacker who breaks into a network from moving laterally once they're inside. This feature, which VMware calls "micro-segmentation," is especially important for security-conscious government customers, Kottas said.

Another big selling point for vCloud Government Service is that customers can move workloads out to another vendor's cloud if they need to, said Kottas.

While AWS also has a FedRAMP-certified cloud, government agencies that move workloads there could have a tough time moving them out, according to Kottas.

"Once those workloads get to VMware's cloud, we expect them to stay there," Kottas said. "But if customers need to move these workloads to a different vendor's cloud, they can."

VMware has been selling its main vCloud Air public cloud service since May of 2013, and last month introduced pay-as-you-go pricing and the ability to sign up online using a credit card.

These features aren't part of the current vCloud Government Service, but VMware might consider adding them if it's something customers want, according to Kottas.