GSA virtual data center deal sparks agency interest

The General Services Administration's Virtual Data Center Services program awarded to three computer services firms last month has already attracted interest from a number of agencies [FCW Feb. 17].

The data center program offers data processing outsourcing services and is open to all federal agencies. The program has a ceiling of $6 billion over its 10-year life. But the service is nonmandatory so the ultimate value of the contracts awarded to Computer Sciences Corp. SunGard Computer Services Inc. and Unisys Corp. is uncertain.

Agencies however are looking into the new services vehicle. "Agencies are expressing very strong interest in the contract " said John Ortego acting deputy director of GSA's Information Technology Integration Division (ITI) which will market and support the Virtual Data Center Services program. Ortego said the departments of Education and Labor elements within the Energy Department the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration have expressed interest in the program.

Under the GSA program agencies are able to purchase IBM Corp.-compatible Unisys Digital Equipment Corp. and Honeywell Inc. mainframe processing services and data center services such as printing and mailing. The processing will be performed at contractor-owned data centers. Among the three contractors a total of 18 data centers are available for processing services.

Four of those centers - two operated by CSC and two by Unisys - are outside the continental United States. Ortego said this feature and the program's ability to handle top-secret processing would appeal to Defense Department buyers.

DOD and civilian agencies are spending $2 billion annually on data center operations GSA believes. Ortego said GSA is aiming to gain 20 percent of that market a chunk that would represent $400 million a year and a "very big success." Over 10 years that would make Virtual Data Center Services a $4 billion deal.

But GSA will face competition for the government's outsourcing dollars from cross-servicing arrangements in which one agency takes on the data proc-essing chores of smaller agencies some executives contended.

"Under [indefinite-delivery indefinite-quantity] contracts you never know for sure" about a contract's eventual value noted Marshall Henderson director of federal outsourcing for CSC's Systems Group. But he added that "there is a lot of pressure within government to look at outsourcing."

Lee Cooper vice president of business development at Unisys said the GSA program will deliver "tremendous cost-efficiencies and improved responses to user needs."

ITI will conduct task-order competitions among the three vendors and also will direct work to a particular vendor "if that is in the best interest of the government " a GSA statement noted.

CSC's team on the GSA deal includes System Development Corp. Huntsville Ala. Soza Fairfax Va. Linda Berdine Associates Fairfax and Comdisco Inc. Arlington Va. SunGard is teamed with GTE Corp. Chantilly Va. and Universal High-Tech Development Inc. Rockville Md. Unisys' subcontractors include Affiliated Computer Services Inc. Dallas Comdisco Q Systems and Horizon Data Corp.

Jo Anne Williams director of federal programs at SunGard said the contract is potentially the company's largest federal deal. She said the typical size of SunGard's federal outsourcing/disaster recovery pacts is $5 million to $6 million a year.

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