Two firms protest GSA's email cloud RFP

Thursday - 8/18/2011, 3:55pm EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The General Services Administration's $2.5 billion email-as-a-service contract is under protest.

Two vendors, Technosource and True Tandem, filed pre-solicitation protests with the Government Accountability Office.

The companies say GSA's requirement to have a government-only cloud is a "restrictive specification" and therefore not allowed under federal acquisition rules, according to a industry source with knowledge of the protests.

The companies claim GSA cannot justify the need to limit a cloud computing service to just the federal, state and local governments because in many ways the agency is calling for another version of a community cloud, the source said.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology defined cloud computing in three ways: private cloud, public cloud and hybrid cloud.

"NIST defines a community cloud as one that is made up of organizations that have the same concerns and the same compliance and security requirements," the source said. "GSA could call for a community cloud of federal agencies only because all are subject to the same Federal Information Security Management Act, the Trade Secrets Act and other laws and regulations. But to say the state and irrigation district office in San Diego has the same policies as federal agencies is nonsense. It's not rational to limit a community cloud to just all governments."

Both companies are partnered with Microsoft to offer their cloud services.

Technosource and True Tandem filed the protests with GAO on June 7. GAO will decide the protest by Oct. 17.

In the meantime, GSA continues to move forward with the procurement.

"I can confirm there are protests," said a GSA spokeswoman. "We are continuing to evaluate offers while GAO comes to a decision. We will not make an award until the GAO ruling."

GSA issued the RFP in May for three cloud email services. Under the contract, 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.

The email-as-a-service RFP is part of a broad strategy to move agencies into the cloud. GSA already awarded a contract for infrastructure-as-a-service, and CGI Wednesday announced it became the second company to receive approval to begin offering its services to agencies.

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