Salesforce lands $28M GSA-wide cloud contract

The public cloud gains ground in the government market with GSA's contract award to Salesforce.com. How is the agency going to use the contract?

The government’s use of public cloud services got a boost this summer with the General Services Administration decision to sign a $28.1 million enterprise license agreement with Salesforce.com.

The five-year deal covers Salesforce’s customer relationship management modules, Force.com development platform and Chatter collaboration suite and can be used by GSA’s 17,000 employees, GSA and Salesforce officials said.

For Dan Burton, Salesforce’s senior vice president for global public sector, the deal is significant for several reasons, particularly because it is a public cloud license.

“With a public cloud you don’t have to buy infrastructure, you can scale up or down, you can move with speed and you gain energy efficiencies,” he said. “You don’t get those benefits with a private cloud.”

GSA’s decision is a vote of confidence in both the security and value of the public cloud, Burton said.

The Salesforce contract is one of GSA’s three cloud commitments as part of the cloud first strategy, which mandates that agencies should identify and move three applications to cloud computing platforms by the end of 2012, said Casey Coleman, GSA’s CIO.

“It is evidence of the value of cloud computing,” Coleman said. “We believe cloud computing has matured and is a vital option to the federal government.”

GSA’s other cloud initiatives include a contract with Unisys, Google, Acumen Solutions and Tempus Nova to migrate 17,000 e-mail users to Google Apps. That project was completed several months ago, Coleman said. A second project was with Fiberlink for mobility as a service to track laptops, tablets and smart phones.

While Salesforce has been working with GSA for several years and has other government customers as well, this is the first enterprise license in the federal market for Salesforce’s three core products, Burton said.

“This isn’t just one product but the whole suite of products,” he said. “This is quite an accomplishment for us.”

GSA, Salesforce.com and Acumen Solutions have spent the past three months focused on architecture, security and data standards under the agreement to build the foundation to use the platform effectively, Coleman said.

“We are involved in laying the groundwork for an agency-wide rollout,” that will happen incrementally over the next few months, Coleman said.

Part of Acumen’s role is to help develop requirements, determine which are the right applications to develop in the cloud and to help with implementation, said Jay Tansing, managing director of public sector services for Acumen.

The company has been working with GSA on cloud related projects for several years. Some areas of interest with the Salesforce license is improving customer service, modernizing legacy applications and building new applications in the cloud, he said.

“We’ve established a clear track record of success with the cloud first strategy,” Coleman said, referring to the Obama administration’s goal to promote cloud computing.

Additionally, GSA Administrator Martha Johnson has placed a priority within GSA on mobility and on the ability of the agency’s workforce to work from anywhere at anytime. GSA’s motto is: Work is what you do; not where you are,” Coleman said.

The migration to Salesforce is also a part of GSA’s efforts to fulfill the Office of Management and Budget’s 25-point IT reform plan to modernize and transform government IT systems by retiring older systems running on outdated technologies, she said.

While GSA has not estimated the cost savings of moving to the Salesforce platform, the savings are expected to be significant, Coleman said. For example, the agency will move applications built in the older collaboration environment based on IBM Lotus Domino and then retire that system, she said.

The GSA project likely will be followed closely by other agencies considering enterprisewide public cloud implementations. “This really is a symbolic shift,” Burton said.

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