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Cloud contracts maturing, but agencies often bypass them

Showing the value of integration, agency managers often procure cloud services through GWACs rather than cloud-specific contracts.

Dec. 17, 2013 - 06:09PM   |  
By NICOLE BLAKE JOHNSON   |   Comments

Federal agencies spent hundreds of millions of dollars last year buying cloud services through General Services Administration contracts, but the contracts GSA designated specifically for cloud did not get much of the action. Instead, agencies used GSA’s governmentwide contracts, such as Alliant, for many of the procurements.

About $550 million in cloud service purchases went through the agency’s GWACs, compared with less than $100 million on GSA’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Email-as-a-Service contracts, said Mark Day, acting deputy assistant commissioner for GSA’s Office of Integrated Technology Services.

“That’s a significant delta that says integration matters,” said Day. Agencies are opting to use GSA contracts that provide the mechanism to integrate cloud technology with other systems, along with purchasing the cloud services themselves, he noted.

“Why is that? Because people need integration services,” said Day, speaking at an acquisition panel Tuesday at the Federal Cloud Computing Summit in Washington. “They need legacy support services along with the cloud. They need migration services, [and] all these kinds of things.”

In anticipation of the administration’s IT reform plan released in December 2010, GSA was tasked with launching contract vehicles for secure cloud storage, web hosting and other IT infrastructure services in the cloud. GSA awarded a five-year, $76.5 million contract in 2010 and a $2.5 billion contract for cloud email last year.

Day said GSA’s cloud contracts were early outgrowths of the administration’s push to adopt cloud services, and were somewhat experimental. The cloud infrastructure contract had certain deficiencies that were corrected in the cloud email contract. Then the email contract was caught up in a protest.

“As we watch the evolution of all these things, we’re really starting to say ‘let’s not work on a contract that helps next year with the current year problems,’” Day said. “Let’s try to anticipate what are the problems [will be] two, three years from now, and let’s start working on what we would put in place to actually meet that.”

GSA is currently piloting a cloud broker model for acquiring and managing the performance of federal cloud services. Cloud brokers can provide security monitoring services, integrate legacy systems with cloud services and a host of other capabilities, Day said. However, it’s not entirely clear just where brokers can add value, and when they add cost instead, he said.

GSA is working with the Department of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and others to answer those questions. Day said they are six weeks away from completing that work.

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