GSA issues RFP for three cloud services

Tuesday - 5/10/2011, 7:17am EDT

Bill Lewis, director of cloud computing, GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, speaking to WFED's Jason Miller

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio
(This story has been updated since posting.)

The General Services Administration wants to gives agencies three choices to move commodity technology to providers of cloud computing services.

GSA issued a request for quotation late Monday for e-mail, office automation and electronic records management under a five-year blanket purchase agreement contract. GSA and the Defense Department are working together on the BPA through the SmartBuy and Enterprise Software initiatives.

The cloud computing contract has a ceiling of $2.5 billion over five years. Vendors must submit their bids by June 19 through the EBuy system. Questions about the RFQ should be submitted by May 20.

"The objective of this RFQ is to offer five key service offerings through Email-as-a-service (EaaS) providers for ordering activities," GSA states in the RFQ.

GSA is asking vendors to provide three mandatory services and two optional ones. Under the mandatory categories, vendors must provide e-mail-as-a-service, migration services and integration services. Contractors also can submit a bid to provide office automation-as-a-service, which includes word processing, spreadsheets and presentations, and records management-as-a-service, which includes records collection, organization, categorization, storage, metadata capture, physical record tracking, retrieval, use and disposition.

Bill Lewis, the director of cloud computing at GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, said office automation and electronic records management are tied closely to e-mail, which is why they are part of the RFP.

"We had strong interaction from agencies. In fact for nine months, we had an interagency working group that helped us develop these requirements," Lewis said in an interview with Federal News Radio. "This is the consensus of what our customers felt needed to be in the solicitation."

GSA also asked vendors for their input. The agency issued a request for information last August, followed with an industry day in November and then released a draft solicitation in December.

"It's been a long vetting process with both industry and our customers," Lewis said. "The key is we did a lot of market research and we did a lot of discussions with agencies. It's probably on any individual requirement [we were] considering what our customers are saying and what industry is saying and trying to accommodate those requirements."

"Email-as-a-service is about amplifying the use of cloud computing," said GSA Administrator Martha Johnson last week during TechAmerica's CIO Survey conference. "Agencies will be billed for services based on the number of mail boxes used. Cloud providers maintain the infrastructure. The return on investment comes in less than two years."

Johnson said the average cost per mail box drops to about $14 per month, which is about 44 percent less expensive than if agencies hosted and maintained their own e-mail systems in house.

"We expect to net about $1 million in savings for every 750,000 users," she said.

Federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra said last month that 15 agencies were ready to move 950,000 mail boxes to the cloud. Kundra said GSA would release the RFQ by May 10. GSA beat Kundra's deadline by one day.

Lewis said GSA took into account the experiences of other agencies including their own as they were developing the RFQ.

Only vendors on the GSA IT schedule will be permitted to bid on the RFQ, he added.

This is GSA's second contract for cloud computing services. It awarded 11 vendors a spot on the infrastructure-as-a-service contract in last October.

GSA also is expected to release a RFP for geospatial services in the cloud.

Dave McClure, GSA's associate administrator in the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, said hosting and infrastructure are likely candidates in the geospatial area.

But GSA estimated that the IaaS contract was worth only about $76 million. So with the estimate of $2.5 billion for EaaS, vendors are following this contract more closely.

Under the RFQ, GSA wants vendors to provide any, some or all of the services in four categories of cloud computing:

  • Government community cloud
  • Provider furnished equipment private cloud
  • Secret enclave
  • Public cloud

GSA detailed mandatory requirements such as five gigabytes of storage to mobile device capabilities and e-discovery capabilities.

"We are at a tipping point because the email BPA is a reality and we have had a governmentwide group working on it," Johnson said. "There is more awareness of it. The deputy secretaries are aware of it. They are asking about it. My impression is that agencies will be moving toward the BPA rapidly."

McClure said it will be several months before the email-as-a-service and other offerings under the BPA are up and running.

"If we can get FEDRamp stood up and get all the issues resolved around the policies and requirements, we've talked about maybe putting them through it," McClure said.

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