Three of the world's largest IT vendors have partnered to create a technology architecture alliance aimed at helping federal agencies both protect and share sensitive information.

Cisco, EMC and Microsoft teamed up to form the Secure Information Sharing Architecture (SISA) Alliance, which combines access, content protection, secure data storage and audit services to break down "stovepipe systems and include them on a collapsed infrastructure," Francie Kress, partner manager at EMC, told SCMagazine.com today.

The new architecture allows agencies to keep infrastructures and technologies segmented to ensure privacy but also permit information sharing through the use of virtual LAN technology, Kress said.

The purpose of the initiative is to help the government both protect confidential information – especially in light of a number of major recent breaches, including the lost Department of Veterans Affairs laptop – while also allowing them to share that data in times of need, such as natural disasters or terrorist incidents, Kress said.

"Breaking down barriers between government and partner organizations will require better confidence in the ability to keep information in the hands of only the appropriate users," Steve Cooper, the former chief information officer of the federal Department of Homeland Security, said today in a statement announcing the alliance.

Under the partnership, Microsoft will offer identity management applications and operating systems, Cisco will provide the network protection and the virtualized network links for data in motion and EMC will provide the solutions to store and protect data at rest.

Three other companies will assist in the architecture: Waltham, Mass.-based Liquid Machines and Ottawa-based Titus Labs will offer additional content protection capabilities, while Portland, Ore.-based Swan Island Networks will be charged with creating and operating trusted information exchange systems.

Addx, an Alexandria, Va.-based management consulting firm, will oversee the alliance through the establishment of the SISA Joint Program Office, Kress said. Addx will be responsible for managing the solution architecture and certifying systems integrators.

Click here to email reporter Dan Kaplan.