Agencies eye managed network services

Agencies are starting to warm up to the idea of buying managed network services, the Federal Technology Service's Sandra Bates said.

"It is getting harder to extract the network from the total package," Bates said yesterday at a panel discussion on networks sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council's Telecommunications Shared Interest Group in Falls Church, Va.

As more vendors offer suites of services and technologies, agencies are beginning to see the benefits of buying network services this way, she said. Several agencies have started looking into managed network services, including the departments of Agriculture, Justice and Treasury, Bates said.

"Telecommunications companies are offering more than just basic network services; they are getting into applications," she said. "This is a good thing to do because the government has to rely on the private sector for these services. We don't have the resources or capital to invest in the infrastructure."

Her staff is designing a new governmentwide acquisition vehicle. Dubbed Networx, it will replace FTS 2001 and offer managed services. Networx will have more than 50 core service areas; FTS 2001 had only 29, Bates said.

One former fed was more skeptical of the government's move to managed network services. Agencies still are slow to buy network services in an integrated fashion because of poor coordination within and between agencies, said Bruce McConnell, a former Office of Management and Budget official and now president of McConnell International LLC of Washington.

He also said industry is partly responsible: "We keep buying in piece parts because that is the way industry sells it. Telecommunications companies still are connected to their old roots, and agencies need integrators to pull it all together. The problem, though, is integrators are not experts in all areas."

Jason Miller writes for Government Computer News magazine.

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