Schedule 70 cloud listing could shower benefits

Procurement experts are enthusiastic about adding a separate cloud services category to the venerable contracting vehicle.

Shutterstock image: the data cloud connecting a number of global services.

The General Services Administration's effort to add cloud services to its huge multiple-award Schedule 70 IT contract might give it some leverage over competing government contracting vehicles and a leg up on advancing technology.

Mary Davie, assistant commissioner of GSA's Office of Integrated Technology Services, wrote in a blog post last week that agency leaders are thinking about creating a single special item number (SIN) for cloud services on its IT Schedule 70 governmentwide acquisition contract -- the largest, most widely used IT acquisition vehicle in the federal government.

GSA's request for information issued in early July said commercial cloud computing services were currently being sold through several SINs on Schedule 70.

SINs create logical categories of services within a schedule. Designating one SIN for cloud computing services would more easily and clearly identify those services for customers and would also facilitate their purchase through GSA's eBuy and GSA Advantage portals, Davie said.

Procurement experts said the single SIN could offer GSA a more targeted way to compete with an expanding array of cloud options.

Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council, said a single cloud SIN could help GSA re-establish the primacy of Schedule 70 in the face of proliferating sources for cloud services.

"GSA is nervous because a lot of IT is leaking out of Schedule 70," he said. The single SIN could provide an added level of clarity and confidence for agencies looking for cloud services from an assured provider, and it would offer consistency and transparency while yielding pricing and other data that agencies could use.

Federal procurement expert Larry Allen agreed that GSA's timing could give Schedule 70 a much-needed boost. "Schedule 70 has a tremendous opportunity to get out ahead" with cloud service offerings for federal users, he said.

Two of the largest GWACs -- NASA's Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement and the National Institutes of Health IT Acquisition and Assessment Center's Electronic Commodities Store -- are in transition. SEWP is undergoing a fifth revision, with contracts due this summer, while ECS III is set to expire Nov. 25. NITAAC officials have said they are expecting responses to ECS III's successor, the multibillion-dollar CIO-Commodities and Solutions (CIO-CS) GWAC, by the end of the year.

"If GSA moves adroitly, they can be the first among the major contracting vehicles" to offer a more efficient way to buy cloud services, Allen said.

Additionally, Chvotkin and Allen said the effort to create a unified SIN under Schedule 70 doesn't render redundant the federally mandated "cloud first" policy that requires agencies to increase their use of cloud computing. Cloud services do not yet pervade the federal government, and they said a simplified SIN would provide a clearer way for agencies to buy cloud services rather than rely on Schedule 70 solutions that might or might not employ the technology.

"We're not near ubiquitous cloud services yet," Allen said. The technology is not explicit in some Schedule 70 offerings, but the single number would make it explicit, he added.

GSA officials said some federal contracting vehicles make buying cloud services easier than others. In remarks made after GSA's RFI was announced, Maynard Crum, acting director of GSA's Office of Strategic Programs, said the cloud market had matured to the extent that federal agencies were getting used to the idea of using two government purchasing vehicles -- GSA's Alliant GWAC and Schedule 70.

In an email statement, Crum said Alliant is broad enough to make buying cloud services easy, while Schedule 70's lack of a single cloud SIN meant technologies, integration and migration services were spread among various SINs.

"The current plan is to encourage people to respond to the RFI," Crum said. "Our goal is to gather as much feedback as possible, ensure we're collaborating with our government customers and our industry partners, and take all input into account. Once we're able to sift through everything, we will determine the best course of action going forward."

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