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Planning, procurement and purchasing the cloud: A primer

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When planning for the cloud, don’t forget procurement.

That was the message delivered by two experts with a shared and vested interest in successfully migrating federal agencies to cloud services, speaking on a panel at Amazon Web Services’ government symposium in Washington, D.C., on June 26.

"If procurement is left out, all the good intentions of cloud are reduced or eliminated," said David DeBrandt, business development capture manager for Amazon Web Services. “If you use traditional procurement frameworks, the benefits of cloud are taken away.”

Karen Petraska, service executive for data centers at NASA's Office of the CIO, said acquiring cloud services requires a different way of approaching procurement while still employing more traditional procurement techniques. NASA has been among the early movers toward cloud solutions.

NASA's Solutions for Enterprise Wide Procurement (SEWP) government wide procurement vehicle has been an instrumental part of her agency's cloud work, Petraska said. SEWP has issued statements of work that can give agencies varying levels of control over their services. NASA, for example, chose one with a high level of control over its data and high-level access. It also made sure it retained intellectual property rights to all of its data, she said.

That kind of detailed consideration is required when agencies craft requests for proposals for cloud services, according to both Petraska and DeBrandt.

That means including top managers from legal, budget, security and IT departments -- and not just acquisition personnel -- in initial procurement planning meetings, said DeBrandt.

Although cloud procurement is being learned by agencies like NASA, sometimes older procurement techniques can be tweaked to pitch in. Petraska said she uses "non-specific ordering" on procurement documents, which essentially creates a refillable "Starbucks Card" for NASA personnel who buy cloud services.

The technique, she said, has to be monitored to ensure regulatory compliance. AWS sends NASA a detailed bill on exactly what was used, which helps with federal audits, said Petraska said, who added that NASA is working with AWS to automate the process. 

Posted by Mark Rockwell on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:01 AM


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