Cloud Computing Procurement Options on the Rise
Agencies to Gain One-Stop Shopping for Cloud-based Services
As government agencies address the advent of cloud computing, the key advantages of using GSA’s IT Schedule 70 to procure cloud-based services will bring enormous benefits and enable agencies to quickly achieve compliance with federally mandated goals.
Recent federal mandates, including the Administration’s 25-Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management published in December 2010 and its accompanying “Cloud First Policy” acquisition strategy, were designed to focus federal agencies on how to quickly get IT operations in shape to embrace cloud computing.
The Administration’s plan, along with the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy report by U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, has set a brisk pace for IT modernization in 2011. In the report, Kundra advised the following procurement reforms, including:
• Develop procurement vehicles to accelerate the purchase of cloud solutions;
• Maximize strategic sourcing to buy cloud solutions;
• Eliminate redundant and inefficient vendor certifications; and
• Integrate needs of state and local governments.
GSA is actively working to achieve these goals. Undoubtedly, cloud computing represents a paradigm shift that most agencies are learning to absorb, said David McClure, GSA’s Associate Administrator in the Office of Citizens Services and Innovative Technologies. “It’s essential to remember cloud computing is a service-oriented approach to computing provided via the Internet. Using cloud-based services, agencies can move away from owning equipment and managing data centers, IT operations and applications. Instead, they can seek high-performance IT services to meet storage, computing capacity and applications needs, without worrying about the infrastructure, maintenance and personnel requirements of a physical IT environment.”
Keeping up-to-date with technological change becomes the job of a cloud services provider, McClure explained. Another unique element of cloud computing is the self-service, on demand, pay-as-you go approach to computing, which is vastly different from what most agencies are accustomed to, he added. “Agencies need to focus on the advantages cloud computing brings for reducing the complexity of contracting, acquisition,” he said. They can leave the hard work of maintaining adequate performance to the cloud service provider. The ability to scale up as demand increases or reduce costs depending on the computing demand for each application should be very appealing to agencies, he explained.
Cloud Computing BPAs Available Under IT Schedule 70
GSA already provides an array of offerings for cloud computing, available now via Schedule 70 contracts. These include infrastructure, software, and platform as-a-service offerings, said William Lewis, Director of the Portfolio Management Division at GSA. “Through Schedule 70 and our other ITS contracts, GSA will offer a full range of cloud computing services and the ability to accommodate newly developed services as they arise,” he explained.
The new IAAS offerings will provide a way for agencies to realize cost savings, efficiencies, and modernization without having to expand capital resources or their existing infrastructures, he said.
The new IT Schedule 70 blanket purchase agreements, for example, are easy to use, feature firm/fixed prices for cloud services that were negotiated on behalf of the entire federal government, and were developed through close working relationships with agency customers, Lewis said.
The IaaS BPA is designed for agencies seeking:
• Cloud Storage;
• Virtual Machines; and
• Web Hosting
The IT Schedule 70 BPA offers cloud-based services in these three categories. So far approximately a dozen vendors are now able to compete for task orders. Prior to making IaaS solutions available through Apps.gov, industry partners must complete the Assessment & Authorization (A&A) process at the FISMA Moderate Impact Data security level as administered by GSA. Once granted authority to operate, products will be made available for purchase by government entities through the Apps.gov storefront.
Awarded suppliers have assembled skilled teams that will support the development of a range of services for government agencies. Awarded vendors and their associated teams include:
• Apptis Inc. partnered with Amazon Web Services;
• Autonomic Resources partnered with Carpathia, Enomaly, and Dell;
• CGI Federal Inc.;
• Computer Literacy World partnered with Electrosoft, XO Communications and Secure Networks;
• Computer Technologies Consultants, Inc., partnered with Softlayer, Inc.;
• Eyak Tech LLC;
• General Dynamics Information Technology partnered with Carpathia;
• Insight Public Sector partnered with Microsoft
• Savvis Federal Systems;
• Verizon Federal Inc.
The goal of GSA’s Cloud Computing program is to provide uncomplicated cloud acquisition services to help agencies simplify the choices they must make, and bring greater transparency to the pricing of cloud-based services, McClure said. “Some of the suppliers are small businesses. Others have chosen to partner to provide a rich variety of choices for federal customers,” he added.
In terms of support, Lewis said GSA has created a Cloud Computing Program Office to support the development, acquisition and migration to cloud services. “This is a customer-focused organization willing to assist agency customers in acquiring cloud services,” he explained.
“We can assist in the acquisition process, from requirements development to contract close,” he continued.
Other Cloud Examples
GSA has migrated all of its public facing web activities on USA.gov to a cloud-based service, citing gains in economies of scale, simplified provisioning, as well as lowered costs. All in all, McClure reported the GSA’s savings generated by moving USA.gov and its associated applications to the cloud was $1.7 million.
GSA has also consolidated its emergency notification systems into a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering that is now available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to McClure. This program has reduced annual maintenance costs from $77,000 to $17,000 and improved security while eliminating capital expenses.
Finally, the GSA Email-as-a-Service initiative is currently under way, McClure said. So far, Google Apps has completed the security authorization phase, which means this solution may now be leveraged by other agencies as well. The GSA’s cloud-based e-mail RFI, meanwhile, has generated 13 responses, which will be used to create GSA’s final RFQ, McClure said.
Later this year, agency customers can look forward to greater efficiency in certifying the security of cloud services through the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), Lewis said. This program was structured to certify cloud services once on behalf of the entire government. “Through FedRAMP, cloud services will become more secure and more efficient to certify than many premise-based services,” he explained.
Also, agency customers can expect to see enhancements that will make cloud services easier to purchase via online transactions, Lewis said.
According to GSA’s McClure, a government-wide Email-as-a-Service RFQ is being vetted now and will roll out in the second half of 2011. “Agencies looking to move three services to the cloud in the next 18 months can count on GSA to help facilitate that migration process,” McClure said.
How to Get Rolling Now
According to GSA officials, CIOs must plan ahead for successful cloud adoption. Key best practices for federal agencies to follow includes:
1. Gain agreement on the drivers behind adopting a specific cloud approach.
• Resource reduction/cost constraints;
• Need for specific cloud characteristic (elasticity, scalability, usage-based model);
• Need for rapid implementation; and
• Infrastructure, software, platform services or all three.
2. Grasp the move to services rather than buying physical technology.
3. Make cloud computing part of an overall IT investment portfolio and sourcing strategy, (Do you want to reduce capital expenses, infrastructure, applications inventory?)
4. Be realistic about possible cost reduction estimates and benefits realization.
5. Cloud creates opportunities to aggregate some sourcing.
6. Try not to focus on technology but on the desired outcomes driving key agency requirements.
7. Define where data resides or who has access to it.