You may know the name Palantir from headlines in recent years, but what is Palantir and what do they actually do?
Palantir Technologies (“Palantir”) is a software company based in Denver, Colorado. Founded in 2003, Palantir builds environment-agnostic enterprise data platforms to help customers with complex and sensitive data environments.
Palantir exclusively sells its software to the United States, U.S. allies, and commercial customers. This is a stated and deliberate market strategy by Palantir to align itself with U.S. policy and interests. According to their last annual report, Palantir employs 2,439 full-time employees, including 901 employees outside of the United States. In FY2020, the company generated $1.1 billion in revenue (but has yet to turn an actual profit).
In its formative years, Palantir was exclusively tied to national security efforts as a government contractor. Palantir software was reportedly pitched as a solution that could have identified the 9/11 hijackers and could be utilized to prevent similar attacks in the future. The company received a critical early investment from In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital arm, and became frequently leveraged to aid in counterterrorism investigations and operations.
Palantir platforms integrate, manage, and secure data to create human-driven, machine-assisted data analysis. The company’s portfolio consists of three main software products: Gotham and Foundry and their continuous delivery software, Apollo.
Gothamis Palantir’s original platform that centralizes data from disparate sources and is primarily used for intelligence analysis, defense operations, and mission planning. Gotham transforms data into a single asset, maps it into defined objects—people, places, things, and events—and enables users to identify patterns hidden deep within datasets.
Foundry is utilized by all of Palantir’s commercial customers and some government customers. It allows users to integrate their data in a secure environment, features strong data protection abilities, and enables users to collaborate, conduct point and click searches, and analysis.
Apollo is Palantir’s continuous delivery and product infrastructure platform, which is used to deliver software updates to customers and enable Palantir software to run in any environment.
The company employs forward deployed engineers to deploy these platforms in the field, address customers’ unique challenges, and to ensure customers make the most of Palantir software.
Core U.S. Government customers
Palantir’s customer base has grown overtime to include federal and commercial customers across 40 industries in more than 150 countries. In 2020, 44% of Palantir’s revenue derived from commercial customers. The majority of the company’s revenue was generated from the federal government, with Palantir holding a particularly strong footprint in agencies with sensitive data environments.
Figure 1 – Palantir’s Top 10 Federal Customers based on prime contract obligations, FY2016-FY2020. Source: Beta.SAM.gov.
Select contracts demonstrating the federal government’s use of Palantir software include:
- U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), Software Support Contract – In 2016, Palantir was awarded a five-year, $222 million ceiling value contract to provide All Source Information Fusion software licenses and associated support services to locations abroad and across the U.S. The analytics software supports intelligence analysis and production. With the ceiling value raised to $278 million, Palantir has been obligated $276 million on this contract.
- U.S. Department of the Army, Program Executive Office of Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (PEO IEW&S), Capability Drop 1 IDIQ – In 2018, Palantir was awarded this $876 million shared ceiling value IDIQ to provide technology requirements for the Army’s battlefield intelligence system, the Distributed Common Ground System-Army. Palantir was awarded one $23 million ceiling value task order to provide its Gotham platform for this system. The company has been obligated $19 million thus far.
Palantir won this work due to a lawsuit it won against the U.S. Army in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in 2016. Palantir sued the Army for what it claims was an unlawful procurement solicitation for this IDIQ that shut commercial offerings out of the competition. Palantir claims that this lawsuit transformed the way the U.S. military purchases software by enabling the more serious consideration of adopting COTS products.
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Software Support Contract – In 2019, Palantir was awarded this three-year, $50 million ceiling value contract to continue providing its software to ICE, which is used to collect and sort through data on a variety of people to support criminal investigations and screen immigrants at the border. Palantir has been obligated $31 million thus far.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), Software Support IDIQ – In 2020, Palantir was awarded this one-year, $36 million ceiling value IDIQ to provide enterprise data integration and data management support for an enclave that aggregates data from across NIH institutes, clinics, and external partners. Palantir’s software is used to ingest billions of data points and perform a variety of complex data analyses. Palantir has been obligated $33 million thus far.
FedSavvy Strategies Takeaway
- Palantir has its roots in the military and intelligence community, but it has grown into a global company that serves a diverse federal and commercial customer base.
- Palantir’s three main products provide a platform for data integration and analysis, backed by systemwide security and access controls. These products have been implemented across multiple federal environments from classified U.S. Department of Defense systems to public health platforms.
- Palantir’s forward deployed engineers enable Palantir to become uniquely involved with their customers and their data environments which entrenches Palantir in a customer’s daily working environment.
- Palantir is a strong competitor for pursuits centered on data integration and analysis, especially in agencies that possess complex and sensitive data.
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