Shrinking from 170 to one

DHS wants to consolidate portals and Web sites, now it’s looking for the right tools

The Homeland Security Department will consolidate more than 20 existing portals and 150 Web sites into one enterprise portal serving the entire agency—just as soon as commercial software catches up with its needs.

DHS earlier this month issued a Sources Sought notice on Fedbizopps.gov, asking vendors to describe their qualifications for building a sophisticated Web portal.

DHS last week extended the deadline for responses from contractors for at least 30 days from the original May 25 closing date. Officials said vendors submitted “numerous comments and questions,” and the agency would respond to them before accepting vendor information.

Part of the delay is because vendors still are bringing their service-oriented architecture products to a mature state of development, department officials said in the notice. The procurement documents call for the vendors to build systems that rely on open architecture and commercial products, as well as standards that do not restrict the portal to using one software product.

Officials do have a plan in place for when they eventually receive vendor technical and past performance statements.

DHS would issue a request for quotes from companies selected based on their abilities. The RFQ would include a statement of objectives that would let bidders define many of the methods used to satisfy contract goals.

This is the latest delay in a project that is already lagging about two months behind a previously announced schedule.

A DHS spokesman said the department likely would not comment on the acquisition now that it is under way.

When DHS finally awards the contracts, it plans to use its enterprise contract with Akamai Technologies Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., to provide the platform for the new portal, which is to serve both internal and external users.

Several DHS organizational elements already use Akamai’s fleet of more than 14,000 servers, which the company claims handles about 15 percent of global Internet traffic, for content delivery and application processing, department officials said.

The department specified a broad range of capabilities for the new portal, including geospatial mapping, real-time messaging and collaboration, and document management. The new portal is intended to serve 3 million registered users—and 1 million simultaneous users—and handle more than 100 million page visits a month.

The department hired the Interoperability Clearinghouse, a not-for-profit organization based in Alexandria, Va., to help refine its procurement process. ICH provides assistance with structuring large, risky systems integration projects.

John Weiler, the organization’s executive director and chief technology officer, said his group submitted an unsolicited proposal to DHS to provide its Solution Architecture Integration Laboratory as a means of honing the portal procurement.

“SAIL is a way for government to assess the potential capabilities and performance of [products available in] the market, and to know where the capabilities are,” Weiler said.

The virtual laboratory lets procurement officials determine “whether the [contract] requirements can be implemented,” Weiler said. “The government frequently has asked for capabilities that don’t exist.”

Weiler confirmed that portal software developers have not yet fully adopted SOA technology.
Portals have evolved to be the enterprise application integration layer, and SOA is the crown jewel for enterprise integration, according to Weiler.

“If the user envisions the need for SOA, the technology will migrate to that,” Weiler said. He praised DHS for attempting to push the software market toward its own need for SOA, rather than accepting the limits of existing technology.

DHS procurement documents state that the department wants a distributed SOA for the portal, to promote component assembly and reusability. The SOA would let the department adjust the portal to changing business needs and technology without disrupting services.

The department said the portal project would begin by providing services at the sensitive but unclassified level of confidentiality. DHS officials expect the Enterprise Portal Program to last for several years, according to procurement documents.

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