GSA solicitation solidifies cloud commitment

Efforts advance to make cloud computing services accessible to federal agencies with new RFQ, the launch of a web site, and new support for FedRAMP program.

Efforts to make cloud computing services accessible to federal agencies gained new traction in recent days with the release of a long-awaited procurement notice for computing infrastructure services, the launch of a new cloud computing reference web site, and staffing moves to support FedRAMP, a program aimed at streamlining security certification.

Katie Lewin, General Services Administration program manager for the Cloud Computing Initiative announced last week that GSA's revised request for quotation for computing infrastructure as a service, has been released for industry response. GSA is focusing on procuring three kinds of infrastructure computing services: Cloud storage services, virtual machines, and Cloud Web hosting services. 

The services are an important component that GSA, and Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, want to make available to agencies through GSA's online cloud computing services store. The RFQ for the services had been delayed after concerns that the original request lacked sufficient clarity about security requirements. To shorten acquisition time, providers will need to provide the services through existing GSA Schedule 70 procurement terms.

In a separate move, Lewin said GSA launched a new web site,, on May 20 to coincide with a government and industry cloud computing forum, hosted Thursday by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

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The new site is aimed at educating federal agencies on how to utilize cloud computing services, featuring reference material and will eventually catalogue case studies, Lewin said. Lewin directs the day to day management of the Federal Cloud Computing Initiative, charged with developing the deliverables and technical guidance for the government's push into cloud computing, under the direction of Vivek Kundra, the Federal CIO Council and its cloud computing steering committee. 

And in another move to bolster those efforsts, GSA’s Chief Information Security Officer, Kurt Garbars, has been named to chair the CIO Council's Federal Cloud Computing Advisory Council (CCAC) Security Working Group, in support of the its FedRAMP program.  

The Federal Risk and Authorization Management program is aimed at streamlining the duplicative and costly work of certifying that applications will run securely on agency networks. Each agency must now obtain individual certifications, a process that severely hinders the ability for agencies to share common computing applications. The FedRAMP program includes a new joint authorization board, made up technical staffs from the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and GSA, which would seek to make certifications applicable for use by all agencies.

Garbars will now play an active role on that board. His addition to the board, and the near-finalization of a number of issues about how the board will work, reflect FedRAMP's transition from conceptual stage to an early operational phase.  However, many procecess and details still need to be worked out, Garbars said, following a presentation at the NIST cloud computing forum.

Lewin said these moves were part of continuing efforts to jumpstart the adoption of cloud computing in government, including a push to develop standards, noting that the group “talks to (Federal CIO) Vivek Kundra every Thursday morning at 9:30. He wants to see progress every week,” she said, adding it has “a high level of attention from the Administration."