GSA delays award for cloud e-mail services

Friday - 10/15/2010, 12:20pm EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The General Services Administration is delaying the award of its contract to move its e-mail to the cloud by a month.

Industry sources say GSA asked vendors who are bidding on the contract to extend their prices until Nov. 30. GSA initially had planned the award in early October, but now needs more time while in final discussions, according to industry sources.

A GSA spokesman would not confirm the delay, and only would say, "This is an active procurement and we have no additional information at this time."

Sahar Wali, GSA's spokeswoman, added on Oct. 18, "Price extension requests are a standard part of contingency planning around procurements. Any claims that GSA's request to extend price dates indicate a delay in award is purely speculative. GSA is in an active procurement process for this contract award and therefore cannot comment on any specifics, but we look forward to awarding this contract within the date ranges we originally anticipated."

In an August interview with Federal News Radio, GSA chief information officer Casey Coleman said the goal is to make the award by Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

"I don't know how much before that time we will be doing that," Coleman said. "It's a critical strategic initiative for us so we are looking do it as hastily as can be done properly."

GSA issued the RFP in June and asked for 39 mandatory and 14 optional services to transition, deploy, operate, maintain and secure enterprise-wide e-mail and collaboration in the cloud. The contract would be for a one-year base with four one-year options.

Vendors also are waiting for GSA to make awards under its infrastructure-as-a-service contract. GSA's Ed O'Hare said in August that they were close, but industry sources say there has been little communication about timing from GSA. O'Hare said that GSA also is considering issuing an email-as-a-service request for proposals after the IaaS awards are made.

While GSA is not the first agency to take e-mail to the cloud, many agencies are paying close attention to what it does. GSA has positioned itself as a leader in cloud computing.

Coleman said GSA had some discussions early on with agencies about moving e-mail to the cloud, but none lately.

"Because we are pretty heads down looking at proposals right now we are not engaging in a broad dialogue right now," she said. "But I think that will come as we get further along the path as well."

GSA's decision to take its e-mail system to the cloud is part of a broader IT modernization program. GSA already has implemented across the agency Microsoft Office 2007, voice-over-IP phones, secure access to the network using Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 cards and enhanced remote access and network capabilities.

Coleman said the first set of priorities was foundational and completed by July 4. She said the next set will build on the first and include enhanced video conferencing on every desktop and continue voice over IP deployment, which also includes the use of soft phones from laptops.

Coleman said GSA also will implement a simpler sign-on tool to reduce the number of passwords employees need, reduce the environmental footprint of employees by getting rid of personal printers or implementing better power management, and increase the usage and reliance on instant messaging to enhance collaboration.

She added that her goal is to complete this next set of initiatives by Nov. 11 as well.

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