GSA plans e-mail system revamp

RFP lays out requirements

The General Services Administration is planning to move its entire e-mail system to the cloud. In a request for proposals released June 14, GSA officials outlined the strategy. The proposal also seeks to create an effective collaborative working environment, reduce in-house maintenance, and apply appropriate security and privacy safeguards.

According to the RFP, the GSA seeks to replace its current e-mail and collaboration environment with cloud services that are integrated “as seamlessly as possible via a single sign-on and that improve business performance by providing GSA users with expanded and new capabilities that reflect industry standards.”

These new capabilities include:

  • State-of-the-art e-mail functionality in a multiple domain environment;
  • Expanded access to collaborative tools such as instant messaging, soft phone integration, online meetings, shared workspace, social media, groupware and workgroup support systems;
  • Improved archiving with unlimited storage for e-mail;and
  • The ability to mark and retain data to support litigation requirements.

Any vendor planning to bid for the work will also have to provide frequent technology updates and enhancements. The services must include a robust and rapid full-text search capability to enable forensics and e-discovery across archived and active files. The RFP also calls for a seamless and expedited transition from the current environment to the cloud with minimal disruption to operations or data integrity.

The document noted that aging infrastructure, limited redundancy and inconsistent archiving capability are the key reasons for the modernization. For example, the GSA’s current e-mail infrastructure makes it difficult to manage and retrieve e-mails associated with legal matters. However, replacing old servers, upgrading software and deploying new infrastructure will be expensive and disruptive to GSA operations, hence the need for a seamless shift to the cloud.

According to the GSA, its hardware and software infrastructure currently supports some 15,500 individual accounts and some 3,000 additional shared accounts, with the potential for growth up to 30,000 accounts. Approximately 9,300 accounts are accessed via BlackBerry smart phones.

In the RFP’s cover letter, GSA Chief Information Officer Casey Coleman explained that the organization seeks to move to a software-as-a-service e-mail and collaboration support services contract, rather than a traditional outsourcing and systems integration model. The government believes the older model "is insufficiently adaptive and costly, and the time is right to seek on-demand commodity services with a SaaS cloud computing offering,” she wrote.

GSA left the technical aspects of the effort open-ended. Coleman said the bulk of the project can be addressed in a variety of ways. The solicitation documents include a matrix of features and functions identifying the mandatory requirements and a range of possibilities for vendors to provide a highly integrated, flexible and robust collaboration and e-mail service, she said.

The deadline for RFP questions is June 17, and July 12 for final proposals.

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