Government Seeks Guidance on Cloud-Brokerage Services

Next phase of government IT migration to the cloud could bring opportunity to businesses that can serve as liaisons between federal agencies and cloud service providers.

By Kenneth Corbin
Fri, August 03, 2012

CIO — CRYSTAL CITY, Va. -- The federal government could be turning a corner as it hastens its transition to the cloud.

In the next phase of that strategy, which began with preliminary moves toward commercial cloud services and applications in the first year of the Obama administration, followed by a "cloud-first" mandate for all new government IT projects that was announced in November 2010, the General Services Administration is seeking to streamline use of the new technologies across departments and agencies engaging cloud brokerage services.

On Thursday, the GSA hosted members of industry here at its office just outside Washington to explain its agenda in looking to cloud brokers, which would serve as something like systems integrators (the GSA does not like the term "middleman"), or liaisons between a government agency and a cloud service provider.

"We're looking for a comprehensive service that can provide federal agencies with whatever they need -- infrastructure, platform, software -- a true brokerage model," said Stan Kaczmarczk, director of the GSA's cloud program management office. "It's one that will allow the federal government to take advantage of the pay-as-you-go [model]."

The GSA has issued a request for information (RFI) -- a preliminary step in the procurement process ahead of a request for proposals -- soliciting advice from industry members about how the cloud-brokerage model could be tailored to serve the needs of government.

The GSA originally set a deadline of Aug. 17 for responses, but Kazcmarczk said that the agency will push that date back and announce a new deadline shortly.

The GSA's consideration of cloud-brokerage services marks the latest effort to achieve a far-reaching overhaul of the nearly $80 billion government IT apparatus. At a time when agency budgets are flat or falling, federal CIOs are facing increased demands from their customers -- other federal workers, state and local agencies and, of course, citizens—for more responsive IT-enabled services.

As a result, officials at the Office of Management and Budget, the CIO Council and other bodies have articulated a number of initiatives and mandates to bring cloud services, mobile technology and other enterprise tools and strategies into the federal government.

"Our current IT ecosystem -- and that's the people, the processes, the technology, the customers, the industry partners, the policies -- they're all in a state of flux and disruptive change," said Kevin Youel Page, acting assistant commissioner of the GSA's Office of Integrated Technology Services.

Page pointed to several of the government's IT priorities that have kept CIOs on the hop, such as the cloud-first mandate, a directive to develop mobility strategies and an ambitious data-center consolidation initiative. And those are just today's challenges.

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