September 8, 2016

CIA Investor Targets Analytics

George Leopold

The CIA’s investment arm continues to back emerging analytics vendors, this time targeting visual analytics specialist Zoomdata Inc. in a technology development agreement that follows the roll out of the company’s big data platform to U.S. intelligence agencies via an Amazon Web Services marketplace.

Zoomdata, San Mateo, Calif., disclosed Thursday (Sept. 8) that In-Q-Tel, the strategic technology investor for the U.S. intelligence community, is investing an undisclosed amount as part of a technology development agreement. The partnership stems from the availability of a group of technology vendors including Zoomdata’s visual analytics platform on the AWS (NASDAQ: AMZN) cloud marketplace that serves 17 U.S. intelligence agencies.

The software-as-a-service platform is designed to allow spy agencies to quickly purchase and deploy software infrastructure and development tools. The AWS marketplace is part of the Commercial Cloud Services (C2S) program overseen by the IT enterprise branch of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

In-Q-Tel said the partnership with Zoomdata would extend the investment arm’s existing federal efforts that include availability of tools via AWS C2S and GovCloud along with development of new cloud-based services through federal partners such as Deloitte, Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC) and Unisys Corp. (NYSE: UIS).

Management consultant Deloitte is also a Zoomdata enterprise customer.

“Zoomdata offers government agencies a universal and open platform that can be used for visual analytics across all types of different data systems,” Brian Smith, an In-Q-Tell investments partner, noted in a statement announcing the partnership. The company’s platform would help federal agencies crunch historical as well as streaming, real-time data source, Smith added.

Zoomdata CEO Justin Langseth said the partnership would make it easier for U.S. intelligence agencies to develop and deploy cloud-based visual analytics applications by eliminating the need to negotiate individual contracts. In that sense, the U.S. spy agencies are pioneering adoption of flexible cloud options as much of the rest of the federal government struggles to make the transition to cloud computing.

The CIA got a jump on civilian agencies when it moved two years ago to secure cloud services from AWS under a $600 million contract. Along with the CIA cloud, the deal resulted in deployment of GovCloud, an isolated U.S. region designed to host sensitive and regulated government workloads.

In-Q-Tel declined to say how much is it investing in Zoomdata. The four-year-old startup whose data visualization platform is geared toward real-time data crunching raised $25 million in its latest funding round led by Goldman Sachs. Thus far, the company has raised more than $47 million in four financing rounds.

The startup’s visual analytics platform is based on its patented data “sharpening” and micro-query technologies. The visualization platform can be deployed either on-premise or in the cloud. The company’s Fusion tool is designed to join big data with other data stores while leveraging emerging micro-services to speed up delivery of visual analytics.

In the case of financial data, that can amount to billions of rows of data.

In-Q-Tel has been making steady investments in emerging analytics platforms. In June, it announced a technology partnership with Databricks to extend the Apache Spark processing engine to the U.S. intelligence community’s cloud to support “operational requirements.”

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