Sunday, July 11, 2010

Support for Cloud Computing

GSA has a significant leadership role in supporting the adoption of cloud computing in the federal government, according to Dr. David McClure, Associate Administrator, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, at GSA. He appeared July 1st before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization, and Procurement to discuss cloud issues.

As he pointed out, GSA facilitates innovative cloud computing procurement options, ensures that effective cloud security and standards are in place, and identifies potential multi-agency or government-wide used of cloud computing solutions.

Currently, GSA in supporting OMB is working with agencies to develop plans to consolidate their data centers. It will be the role of the agencies to analyze viable cloud computing options to meet their business and technology modernization needs. By using the right deployment models, agencies will be able to buy improved services at a lower cost within acceptable risk levels and not have to maintain expensive, separate, independent, and often needlessly redundant brick and mortar data centers.

GSA’s leadership role in supporting the adoption of cloud computing in the federal government will be to streamline the procurement process. So far, the agency is working to provide easy access to cloud based solutions from commercial providers that meet federal requirements.

Dr. McClure explained that cloud services are usually offered and purchased as commodities and for the agencies this will be a new way to buy IT services. In the near future, GSA is going to select vendors that are capable of offering services and products to the other agencies. This will make it better for vendors as it will be easier for the federal agencies to enter into contracts.

To assist agencies in buying new commercially provided cloud services, GSA has established the website modeled on other GSA product and service acquisition “storefronts”. The purpose for the web site is to provide easy simple ways to find, research, and procure commercial cloud products and services. The site provides government buyers with information and buying tools to complete their procurements.

The website allows agencies to search for “Software as a Service” (SaaS) products that are categorized under 33 business purpose headings. This enables the agencies to get product descriptions, price quotes, and then link to more information on specific products. Usage patterns to date indicate that agencies use this information to either directly buy SaaS products, or use the information as a source of marketplace research to support cloud procurements, plus use the information with other vehicles such as the GSA Schedule or GSA Advantage.

The website also has information on no cost social media applications. When a user hits the SEND REQUEST button, they are linked to their agency’s social media coordinator to complete the request for use of the tool in compliance with their agency’s social media policy. will bring new players into the contracting field but many smaller companies lack the background in the federal marketplace to compete. This means that small businesses will need to get up to speed in order to deal with federal contracting. The larger firms already familiar with the agencies are now poised to meet the demands of the federal customers.

To support access to cloud-based “Infrastructure as a Service” (IaaS), the cloud program management office is working with the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) at GSA. The FAS has primary responsibility for operating on-line acquisition services that are available for government-wide use.

In May 2009, the Program Management Office issued a Request for Information asking the marketplace how they would address cloud computing business models, pricing, service level agreements, operational support, data management, security, and standards. The responses received from the RFI, was incorporated into a Request for Quote for IaaS capabilities and pricing which closed at the end of June 2010.

The information is currently being evaluated but the resulting information may be used to develop a multiple award blanket purchase agreement that agencies can use to procure cloud- based web hosting, virtual machine, and storage services within a moderate security environments.

It is very important to address other issues such as security, standards, and specific cloud-based solutions with government or multi-agency use such as cloud-based e-mail services. The Federal Cloud Computing Program Management Office (PMO) created at GSA in 2009, has formed working groups to address various issues.

The groups are chaired by a government expert and NIST was selected to lead both the standards and security groups. Also, the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) is being formed. This is a government-wide initiative that will be launched to provide joint authorizations and continuous security monitoring services for all federal agencies with an initial focus on cloud computing.