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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

GSA starts big push toward commercial cloud

The General Services Administration has made clear that it knows what it wants in kicking off market research phase for what is shaping up as a massive blanket purchase agreement for enterprise cloud services.

A wide-range of commercial cloud services will be available on a pay-as-you-go basis via the BPA: including software-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service. The vehicle also will include cloud security requirements and services related to cloud implementation.

All federal, state and local government agencies can have access to the contract. GSA is pushing it as a mechanism for agencies to replace legacy IT services and products, while also leveraging cloud offerings already available through the GSA schedule.

“The number-one thing agencies ask for is an acquisition solution that offers a full set of commercial, secure, soup-to-nuts, cloud products and services. We think now is the right time to make it happen,” GSA IT Category Deputy Assistant Commissioner Keith Nakasone said in a release.

The COVID-19 pandemic also has driven home the need for more robust digital and virtual environments as agencies more toward more cloud-based solutions as well as more telework. Agencies are therefore looking to cut their reliance on legacy systems, GSA said.

Reponses to the request for information are due May 24. GSA has set up an online form for companies to use to respond. There also is a link on that page to GSA’s Draft Market Research Cloud Strategy.

Currently, there does not appear to be a solicitation number for the developing procurement. Nor does the RFI appear on Beta.Sam.gov, GSA’s own contract opportunity portal.

Take note: If you interested in this procurement, even as just a subcontractor or teammate, you need to respond to this RFI. Future notices on the contract might only go to companies who respond to the RFI.

If GSA decides to do that, it will issue future notices including “all future requests for quotes directly to identified sources through email." They are using the RFI to identify those sources.

GSA cites the Federal Acquisition Regulation for giving them this option -- FAR 8.405-3(b)(1)(ii)(B)(2). Snarky comments about transparency are being held back for a later date.

The draft strategy describes in greater detail the requirements GSA wants to put under the BPA including:

  • Audio, video, collaboration, email, content management, records management and office productivity.
  • Hardware and software tools delivered via the commercial cloud.
  • Renting and leasing of services for compute and storage in the cloud.

Other requirements include supply chain risk management, FedRAMP cloud authorization and enterprise-wide dashboards for monitoring and reporting.

The strategy also explores some acquisition approaches with multiple-award BPA being the clear preference for GSA.

Other approaches include a single award. GSA dinged that because it limits competition, would be too complex for all agencies, and limits flexibility. A standalone IT governmentwide contract would have limited scope and is not as agile for on-ramping new technologies and new companies as a BPA would be.

Going with an open-market approach would limit a standards-based approach, doesn’t align with GSA’s category management principles, and would be difficult to govern and track spending or reduce redundancy.

Respondents are asked to pick what they believe is the most appropriate acquisition strategy: single-award BPA, multiple-award BPA, governmentwide acquisition contract or open market.

Text fields in the RFI are limited to 1,500 characters for respondents to describe an award evaluation criteria.

Another text field asks for a description of how products and services are priced, but that is the only mention of price in the RFI. The word “cost” also doesn’t appear.

That indicates to me that the competition for a place on the BPA may not include price as an evaluation factor. Price instead will be competed at the task order level.

But the BPA will have a ceiling and be huge given the scope. The CIA has not disclosed the ceiling on its multiple-award Commercial Cloud Enterprise contract, but it has been described as “tens of billions.” C2E will support some 17 intelligence agencies.

Arguably, this cloud BPA that GSA is working on will have broader field of users. So its ceiling will likely be in the tens of billions as will.

The short list of front-runners are likely the same as the C2E winners -- Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle. I’m sure some of the large systems integrators known for their enterprise IT services will also pursue this.

There likely will also be a small business requirement and perhaps space for some of those companies to become primes. We’ll have to wait for more details on that as well as when awards are expected.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on May 14, 2021 at 10:32 AM

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