Tic tock

When the Office of Management
and Budget announced its Trusted
Internet Connections (TIC) initiative
in November, it added to the
pressure on agency telecommunications
managers and, according
to one analyst, could change how
government handles network services
and industry supplies them.

The OMB directive to trim to 50
the government's Internet points
of presence set a June deadline
for agencies to make their networks
compliant.

It's a good long-term strategy,
but in the short run, it has
probably slowed awards under the
General Services Administration's
Networx telecom services contract,
said Diana Gowen, general
manager at Networx contract holder
Qwest Government Services. "I
think that required anyone ready
to release a request for quotes on
data networks to reassess their
architecture," she said.

Warren Suss, president of telecom
consulting firm Suss
Consulting Inc., added that "most
of government got blindsided by
TIC." But "TIC could be a windfall
for industry," he said. "It could be
transformative."

In its TIC memo, OMB set the
stage by suggesting agencies look
to Networx for a solution. By defining
TIC and IPv6 compliance as
features of network services rather
than separate applications,
"Networx could help agencies
push these risks and the technical
headaches of other initiatives onto
the shoulders of network vendors,"
Suss said.

Should GSA make the five
Networx vendors the trusted
sources for TIC, as Gowen and
others suggest, agencies could
say: "'We're automatically TIC-compliant
because Networx is TIC-compliant.'
And you may be able
eventually to say the same about
security," Suss said.

Government network management
is in what Suss called a
bifurcated mode, with applications
handled by one group and
telecom handled by another.

"Historically, systems integrators
have handled applications and
carriers have handled transport
with a pretty hard demarcation
line between them," he said.

Government's continuing evolution
into e-government ? along
with Networx ? is blurring that
line, Suss said. "As its interactions
with citizens increasingly occur
over the Web or through call centers,
the infrastructure that carries
those transactions ? and the
data, video, all of it ? becomes
more essential to the proper operation
of government."

The competitive landscape has
been in incredible turmoil, Suss
said. That turmoil might well continue
but in this new direction and
with Networx as its vehicle.
And as technologies converge,
so will agency staffs and their purchases.

"It's already happening
with call centers and aggregated
communication services like
video," Suss said. "The Defense
Information Systems Agency is
already trying to get out of the
business of selling hardware to its
customers and instead is moving
into providing computing capacity
and storage capacity as services."

It's a direction enterprise provider
Level 3 Communications
Inc., of Broomfield, Colo., is eager
for Networx to take.

"Because many of our customers
are Defense Department
and sensitive, we can't talk about
our secure networks experience
and what we can offer for TIC,"
said Ed Morché, general manager
of Level 3's federal markets
group. The company is strong with
users of high-bandwidth applications
and aggregated services,
including DISA.

Although such convergence is a
definite trend in government, its
ultimate direction is not a foregone
conclusion. Other carriers,
notably AT&T Inc., have been
beefing up their internal integration
services, Suss said. But
organic growth for professional
services rarely exceeds 15 percent
a year ? a number that doesn't
excite investors. And carriers can't
look only at the federal space.

"They're still very much tied to
their roots in the commercial
space," he said.

The big questions TIC raises,
Suss said, "are whether Networx
will focus on transport or become
a vehicle that provides services on
a pay-as-you-go basis, expanding
traditional telecommunications to
include cybersecurity, storage,
computing, call centers and other
services that are now competing
channels. And will those needs be
met by a separate set of vendors
or by the carriers through
Networx?"

About the Author

Sami Lais is a special contributor to Washington Technology.

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