Ascend BPA promises an easier path for cloud acquisitions M Lund Photography Inc

Cloud service providers and others should track the General Services Administration's work on developing the Ascend blanket purchase agreement. Here are some critical elements to watch for.

Acquisition of cloud products and services is no easy feat for government agencies.

Business, cybersecurity, data, environmental, operational, and technical requirements all come into play creating a complex field for agencies to navigate on their own.

The General Services Administration's FAS ITC (Federal Acquisition Service, Information Technology Center) is seeking to standardize cloud acquisition with its upcoming release of the Ascend blanket purchase agreement.

 What is Ascend?

Ascend, part of GSA's Cloud Marketplace vision, is a multiple-award blanket purchase agreement against the Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) Special Item Numbers 518210C cloud and cloud-related IT professional services and 54151S IT professional services that will be aimed at helping agencies simplify cloud acquisition while meeting specific cybersecurity requirements.

According to the draft performance work statement issued in May: "The Ascend BPA will focus on enabling support for both vertical (e.g., IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and horizontal capabilities across the ecosystem and will provide more effective system integration and managed support services for the delivery of flexible, diverse, and secure cloud solutions."  

BPA Task Orders can be placed under one or all of the three independent primary pools identified by the government: 

  • Pool 1: infrastructure- and platform-as-a-service
  • Pool 2: software-as-a-service
  • Pool 3: cloud IT professional services

The Primary Special Item Number for the three pools is 518210C, Cloud Computing and Cloud Related IT Professional Services SIN.

GSA says that all three pools will have a secondary SIN of “any additional awarded MAS Contract SIN determined to be necessary.”  Additionally, pool 3 will also include 54151S, Information Technology Professional Services SIN, as a secondary SIN.

GSA says in the draft PWS: “The use of any additional awarded MAS SINs is proposed to address complex or unique customer requirements associated with hybrid cloud solutions or ‘on-premises’ requirements that are not supported under SIN 518210C or SIN 54151S. They should not represent a significant level of effort or commodity procurement cost relative to the overall solution cost estimate.”

Given this Primary SIN and the restrictions placed on the use of additional SINs, cloud service providers should pay special attention to ensuring their cloud service offerings that they hope to be included in the upcoming BPA are awarded on the cloud SIN.

If the CSOs are not currently awarded under the cloud SIN, acting now to prepare and submit a modification to add the offerings to SIN 518210C will ensure that the CSP is prepared and ready for the upcoming Ascend BPA.

How will it be structured?

With a focus on cloud smart/security smart objectives, Ascend aims to establish minimum baseline requirements that address Cyber Executive Order 14028, NIST best practices, cybersecurity supply chain risk management (C-SCRM) and resiliency, and zero trust architecture (ZTA) cybersecurity baselines that leverage development, security, and operations (DevSecOps) and continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) agile processes. 

Why would CSPs bring their offerings to Ascend?

With the assurance that cloud offerings on the Ascend BPA meet cybersecurity legislation, regulations, and policies, agencies will be able to procure cloud products and services in a streamlined acquisition environment.

Reducing cloud acquisition complexity provides cloud service providers the opportunity to deliver their IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS solutions into the hands of their customer agencies quicker provided that the CSP has its solutions on a GSA MAS contract (Information Technology Large Category, IT Solutions Subcategory, and Cloud Computing and Cloud Related IT Professional Services SIN 518210C).

With the draft performance work statement issued in May and a market research request for information issued in July, GSA has stated they are gathering industry feedback and working on a draft request for quotations for Ascend that they hope to release in the second quarter of 2023.

Government agencies who want to ease the burden of cloud acquisition and interested CSPs who want a streamlined, simplified vehicle to deliver their cloud solutions into the hands of their government customers should stay tuned.