GSA readies acquisition of cloud infrastructure services

Feds prepare to buy cloud storage, virtual machine and web hosting services

General Services Administration officials are finalizing renewed plans to acquire on-demand computing infrastructure services for federal agencies.

In public meetings April 21 with industry executives, David McClure, associate administrator for GSA’s Office of Citizen Services, and two GSA directors outlined the government’s plans to seek proposals in the coming weeks for delivering several types of infrastructure services over the Internet.

McClure said GSA is focusing initially on three primary infrastructure services. The first is for delivering on-demand cloud storage services. The second set of services would involve delivering virtual machines on demand capable of running Windows, Linux and other operating systems. And the third would provide Web hosting bundles, also capable of running on Windows, Linux and other operating systems.

As part of the services packages, providers would also need to satisfy expected bandwidth demands required to move data back and forth into remote facilities.


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The briefings by McClure, Katie Lewin, director of GSA’s Cloud Computing Program, and Michael Anastasio, director of strategic solutions in the Office of Integrated Technology for Federal Acquisition Service, signaled GSA’s latest attempt to begin acquiring cloud infrastructure services for federal agencies.

GSA hit the reset button earlier this year on its acquisition plans when it canceled a request for quotations for the cloud computing services, after concluding more work was needed to clarify necessary security enhancements in the RFP, according to McClure.

McClure said GSA and Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra also concluded that several other measures were needed to accelerate the acquisition of Infrastructure-as-a-Service components.

That included taking a different approach from the usual acquisition process which involves soliciting proposals and awarding contracts.

To be considered for the IaaS acquisition, McClure said, prospective providers must hold an existing Federal Supply Schedule 70 contract, which is used for buying general purpose communication information technology equipment, software, and services. Companies will also be required to map their proposal offerings and associated pricing to their current Schedule 70 contract. In addition, providers must be able to demonstrate that the services have a Moderate Security Impact Level, as defined under the Federal Information Security Management Act. While not all agencies require that level, according to McClure, officials agreed raising the bar on security minimums made sense.

To help accelerate the accreditation process and address security concerns, Kundra announced last month the creation of FedRAMP, the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program. The program includes a new Joint Authorization Board, made up of representatives from the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, GSA, and a sponsoring agency.

If the new joint authorization board certifies a new network security product or service for one agency, that certification would be eligible for use at all civilian agencies, without the need for each agency to replicate the certification process as is required now. That requirement was seen as a major impediment to adopting cloud computing technologies in the federal government.

Details on the FedRAMP program and the Joint Authorization Board are expected to be formally released at a federally-sponsored cloud computing summit being held by the National Institute of Standards and Technology May 20.

In addition to the delivering cloud-based infrastructure-as-a-service components, GSA expects to overhaul its current software-as-a-service offerings on Apps.gov, the government’s online applications store, Lewin said.

The business applications available to agency employees were confusing and lacked sufficient information to understand which products should be bought first and which were add-ons, she said. GSA is asking companies with products available on the Apps.gov store to revise their product descriptions by June 1.

Lewin said GSA also plans to install a better search tool on the site to help narrow the number of products displayed and make it simpler for employees to find the type of software they’re looking for.

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