Federal cloud procurements not 'gloom and doom' for small vendors

Panelists advise vendors to team up, or buy cloud services, add to them, and resell

With federal agencies expected to adopt cloud services on a much larger scale in the coming years, some small federal IT contractors are worried how they will fit into the new ecosystem.

“What is the impact on small providers? Will they get locked out?” was a question asked at the AFCEA Bethesda panel discussion on the federal transitions to cloud and service environments on Nov. 16.

The panelists, while explaining that the transition is still in the very early stages, suggested that the outcome may be fine for smaller federal IT contractors.

“The picture is not gloom and doom,” said Steve Cooper, acting chief information officer for the Federal Aviation Administration.

While many of the federal cloud adoptions to date have involved large companies, such as Amazon and Google, there is room in the market for smaller vendors, the panelists said.

One factor that could help is that the cost of entry into the federal IT market has been lowered through cloud services, suggested panel moderator David McClure, associate administrator for the General Services Administration. The smaller vendors will compete more with cloud service providers, large and small, and not as much with IT hardware producers and manufacturers, which are industries that have high barriers to entry, he said.

“I do not see this as a bleak outlook. I see a robust interest among small companies and start-up companies,” McClure said.

Even though federal agencies are transitioning to cloud services, they will still need experts who can develop custom applications to fulfill the agencies’ missions, said Barry Brown, executive director for enterprise data management and engineering at Customs and Border Protection.

In addition, the small vendors would be wise to consider teaming strategies, added Cooper.

“You can team up with partners,” Cooper said. “It is not all or nothing.”

Also, some smaller vendors are gaining a foothold in the federal market by purchasing cloud computing services by themselves, and then layering custom services on top of that, for sale to meet an agency’s needs, Cooper said.

“Small companies are buying infrastructure as a service and platforms as a service, and adding capabilities,” Cooper said

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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