GSA looks to refine software-defined networking in EIS

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The General Services Administration wants to make software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) broadband capabilities more readily available to agencies through its next-generation telecommunications contract.

GSA is considering advice it sought from its nine prime Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contractors about categorizing the services under the $50 billion telecommunications contract.

Jim Russo, telecommunications manager, EIS Solutions Development, Office of IT Category, in GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, asked EIS contractors for advice on ways to set an easier path to order SD-WAN services through the contract, as well as advice on how to offer and price the services.

"SD-WAN services are being requested and proposed under EIS using existing contract services such as Managed Network Services, Transport Services and Service-Related Equipment," a GSA spokesperson told FCW in a Sept. 20 statement. "The EIS Team has requested input from the EIS suppliers to determine a more structured way to specify and provide SD-WAN services under EIS. We've received comments from all primes and one subcontractor. These are currently in review."

The EIS vehicle was put together four years ago before SD-WAN technologies had fully emerged. Although the contract allows for SD-WAN, it doesn't provide many specifics.

Ordering the services can be a challenge, a top official at one of the EIS primes told FCW, as they tend to have to be cobbled together from local suppliers, instead of being made available with uniform identifiers such as contract line item numbers through a central source.

Russo's letter asked detailed questions about standard pricing models for SD-WAN services; carriers' existing commercial offerings; the effect of the capabilities on overall customer spend compared to traditional WANs; how agencies would order the scaled bandwidth the services use; as well as whether the services should be offered as consumption-based "pay-as-you-go" or at a fixed price.

At an August ACT-IAC event on the contract, Allen Hill, director of the Office of Telecommunications Services in GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, said software-defined networking is a key part of federal modernization efforts, including the shift to the cloud.

"We need to get a lot more innovative than just transitioning to the new technologies. That is where software-defined networking will play an important role because the way data transverses the network for cloud services is not the same way it does for a tradition network," Hill said.

Ultimately, Hill said it is up to agencies to determine their comfort level in modernizing their mission-critical systems, as well as to vendors to help them do so, particularly when it comes to moving to software-defined network technology.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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