Interior trying again to move email, collaboration to cloud

Wednesday - 2/8/2012, 6:01am EST

The Interior Department hopes a second time is a charm in trying to move its email and collaboration services to the cloud.

Interior released a new request for proposals Tuesday detailing its needs for a secure, modern and reliable communications system.

"The solution should include email, calendaring, cloud-based email archiving/journaling, instant messaging, desktop video conferencing, Web-based collaboration systems and support for connecting mobile devices while ensuring appropriate security and privacy safeguards," the solicitation cover letter stated. "This competitive acquisition is a great opportunity for the market to demonstrate how a strategic sourcing initiative will benefit the Department of the Interior and ultimately save the taxpayer money by providing our employees with tools needed to improve productivity in our dynamic environment."

The first time the department tried to award a contract for cloud email and collaboration services, it got tied up in a nasty protest pitting Google versus Microsoft. Interior awarded a $59 million contract for email-and-collaboration-as-a-service to SoftChoice, which was to provide Microsoft products and cloud services. But Onix, providing Google apps and cloud services, protested, alleging unfair competition.

After more than a year, Interior decided to pull back the award and reconsider its plans. The agency released a sources sought notice in November to see how the market changed since its first RFP.

"As this service is made available, DOI will also meet several security objectives that have been revised from previous efforts," said Bernard Mazer, DOI's chief information officer, in a statement. "These include leveraging the department's current HSPD-12 background investigations as a minimum access requirement, utilizing a government community or private cloud for hosting, expanding the geographic coverage area from Continental United States to include Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands, and defining the level of separation between the department's data and others if using a government community cloud."

The goal of the program is to consolidate seven different email systems across the 92,000 employees.

The solicitation details Interior's desire for the email and collaboration services. But it also makes clear price is a key evaluation factor and requires all data be kept in the U.S. or U.S. territories. The systems must meet the moderate level of the Federal Information Security Management Act.

The RFP requires all email boxes transitioned to the new service by December.

Proposals are due Feb. 29 and the agency expects to make an award by April 30.

"We've faced challenges in our efforts to consolidate the department's multiple emails systems, but we are moving forward with a transparent, competitive acquisition strategy and expect all users to be on a single email service by the end of the year," said Andrew Jackson, DoI's deputy assistant secretary for Technology, Information and Business Services, in a statement. "The new service will cost less and will provide additional security that is nonintrusive to users."

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