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Is DISA’s Commercial Cloud Services Acquisition Dead?

March was an interesting month for cloud computing at the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).  First, on March 18th the agency posted an announcement on its website that it “now offers milCloud, a cloud-service portfolio, featuring an integrated suite of capabilities designed to drive agility into the development, deployment, and maintenance of DoD applications.”  That same day, DISA’s Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Fred Henry, assured an audience at the AFCEA Army IT Day that the offerings of milCloud are comparable to those available in a commercial cloud, both in cost and capability.  One week later, Amazon Web Services announced that its cloud services had received from DISA “a DoD Provisional Authorization under the DoD Cloud Security Model (CSM) for Impact Levels 1-2.”  In receiving the DoD ATO, AWS joined two other infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) providers – Autonomic and CGI Federal – eligible to provide cloud services to Defense customers.  This announcement came less than two weeks after DoD CIO Teri Takai told a House Armed Services subcommittee that a total of nine cloud service providers are currently in the process of receiving authorization to provide cloud services to the DoD.

DISA’s milCloud announcement took many by surprise, particularly because the implications of it are that vendors will need to compete with the agency to provide cloud services to Defense customers.  On the face of it, this appears to be the case.  Defense customers will have the option of using milCloud services or those offered by commercial cloud providers at approved data impact levels.  In practice, however, I suspect there will be plenty of business to go around for commercial providers.  I think this because ever since the issue of DoD using cloud services arose some 4-5 years ago, there have always been core systems and capabilities that the DoD said it absolutely would not host in a commercial cloud.  Add to this the security requirements imposed by U.S. Cyber Command, and you can see why DISA would choose to play it safe by developing its own cloud solution.  At the same time, the department has for years sought to effectively leverage the benefits of cloud computing.  The milCloud solution seems to offer DoD the best of both worlds by balancing the need of Defense customers for access to cloud services in a secure, non-commercial environment.

More curious to me has been the issuance of ATOs to commercial cloud providers in the absence of a competitive setting.  I understand why the Cloud Broker PMO has done it, but is DISA now going to hold a competition for the Commercial Cloud Services Provider acquisition among only the handful of CSPs that have received ATOs?  Can you imagine the howl that will rise from industry (and maybe Congress too!) if competition is limited to only a small number of vendors?  How could contracts be awarded without dozens of protests that hold up the acquisition for years?

The question also arises if a competition to put a cloud services IDIQ into place is even necessary.  Now that multiple CSPs have been authorized to provide cloud services, what’s to stop any Defense customer from simply putting out an RFP for cloud hosting or migration services?  Having an ATO would be a requirement like any other professional certification (CMMI or ISO 9001:2000, anyone?).  The competitive pool would be limited to those vendors that have authorization. 

In short, I find the announcement of milCloud less interesting than the announcement from AWS about its ATO.  By awarding ATOs to AWS and others, DISA may have managed to side-step the entire question of whether a commercial cloud services IDIQ is needed.  Anyone want to bet on when the cancellation notice comes out?

 

 

NIST Forum Examines the Convergence of Cloud and Mobility

Of the more than 500 cloud computing efforts across the federal government being tracked by Deltek’s Federal Industry Analysis team, roughly 14% are related to communications and collaboration capabilities. Most of the efforts in this sub-group are for tools like email and SharePoint. A few, however, are for capabilities like unified communications and mobile device management.  That a small number of early adopters are dipping their toes into the water of cloud-based communications/mobility solutions indicates growing interest among federal agency customers. This interest recently coalesced into a 2.5 day long forum and workshop on the intersection of cloud and mobility hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. NIST’s purpose in bringing together members of industry, academia, and government was to get ahead of what it expects will be a rapid convergence of cloud and mobile technologies in the next few years. This convergence is already taking place in the commercial world, a fact that has alerted NIST to the need for a standards-based ‘roadmap’ that outlines a path forward for federal agencies.

To that end, NIST invited speakers from the defense, civilian, and intelligence sectors of the federal government to discuss with industry and academia both the current status of cloud and mobility, and what they see coming in the future.  Although speaker comments touched on a wide number of subjects, this post will focus on three specifically: interoperability, security, and the path ahead.

Interoperability

Multiple speakers expressed concern that agency plans to use cloud are not adequately taking into account the need for interoperability between systems, applications, and platforms. In her morning keynote, Pamela Wise-Martinez, Senior Strategic Enterprise Architect at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, explained that current limitations to interoperability are inhibiting the agility of cloud solutions being employed by the federal government. Stovepiped data and legacy systems are part of the problem, but lack of training is also a challenge as too many federal personnel don’t understand why increased interoperability is needed. Discussion of interoperability inevitably led to comments on data standardization and open architecture. Speakers agreed that both of these things are required to allow data to move freely, thereby enhancing agency efforts to share data.

Security

Liberated, standardized data in the cloud enables to greater movement of it throughout the enterprise, leading to greater concerns about security. This may sound ironic, especially given that departments like the DoD have justified their efforts to implement a Joint Information Environment by claiming that non-stovepiped data is more secure. Jacob West, Chief Technology Officer for HP Enterprise Security Solutions, noted in his post-lunch keynote, however, that the growth of mobile and cloud solutions has dramatically increased the attack surface of most networks. Coimbatore S. Chandersekaran, Distributed Systems Chief Engineer at the Institute for Defense Analyses, echoed West’s observation, stating that edge (i.e., mobile) devices are typically weaker than machines in the data center, making them preferred attack vectors for those who would seek to steal data or harm Defense systems.

If adding endpoint devices and putting data in the cloud actually increases agency vulnerability, what’s the solution? Several were proposed, including increasing the use of analytics. Automating the process of identifying attacks can mitigate the effect of those attacks much quicker than when a human being is in the loop, HP’s West argued. However, automation can only be achieved with more extensive use of open architecture and standards. Conveniently, using analytics for continuous monitoring is a process well-suited for the cloud. Just take a look at the Defense Information Systems Agency’s new NSA-inspired Acropolis analytics cloud, for instance.
Speakers also noted a need for shared threat notifications to alert the government community (something that in itself needs to evolve and coalesce), as well as a need for agencies to implement credentialing strategies that provide visibility into who is on government networks, and to engineer systems with security as a core competency.

The Path Ahead

Lastly, several speakers took a shot at explaining what they see is on the horizon for cloud and mobility. Here are a few highlights.

Pamela Wise-Martinez (ODNI) argued that ‘boundary-less’ cloud computing is coming, particularly as analytics evolve, sensor clouds develop, and the ‘Internet of Things’ expands. The result will be the transformation of government into more a service provider than ‘big brother.’

Jacob West stated that industry needs a better way of collaborating to defeat cyber threats. Therefore, work should progress toward creating a community of trusted partners linked via an automated platform that catches a large number of threats and shares relevant information.

Finally, Dawn Leaf, Deputy Chief Information Officer at the Department of Labor, expressed her opinion that the shift of IT to a cloud-based services model is a mini-revolution. It will be this continued shift that drives the use of new technologies, not the development of the technologies themselves.

 

DoD’s Focus on Unmanned Systems Benefits Big Data Providers

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel got a jump on the budget season recently by outlining cuts that will be made to the Department of Defense’s budget request for fiscal 2015.  From the content of Hagel’s remarks it’s easy to conclude that no part of defense spending will be spared the budget axe.  Indeed, the doom and gloom surrounding the DoD’s FY 2015 budget has been a constant theme in the press since the Secretary’s presentation.  Lost in the noise, however, is the fact that Hagel indicated an area of technology spending that would not suffer as badly - intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR).  At the risk of stating the obvious, the shrinking ranks of military personnel should force an increase in the use of technology solutions to fulfill the DoD’s mission.  The question is where will the dollars flow once the budget has been approved?

Unmanned Systems

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is on record as being a big supporter of unmanned systems.  To quote comments he made back in 2012 at the Joint Warfighting Conference and Exposition: “Unmanned technologies are on the rise, and they’re gaining importance not only in terms of effectiveness, but also in terms of their versatility and value.  In an era of fiscal constraint … a platform that offers those traits will almost always be the right one in which to invest.”  Taking direction from this, it’s logical to assume that the DoD’s investment in unmanned systems will continue to be strong.  It may not rise by much, but in today’s environment flat is the new up.

The DoD’s Unmanned Systems Roadmap, published in 2011, offers some guidance on where DoD investment might go.  According to the Roadmap, spending to develop and acquire unmanned capabilities was expected to total $36.4 billion through fiscal 2016.  Although these forecast totals have come down somewhat in the years since 2011, DoD requests for funding related to unmanned systems have still remained north of $6 billion per year, illustrating the importance the department places on this technology area.

The DoD anticipated spending 85% of its ISR investment dollars on air systems, 14% on ground systems, and 1% on maritime systems.  Recent developments reinforce the fact that these priorities remain intact.  For example, in late 2013 the Air Force ISR Agency issued a new strategic plan that outlined the need for a shift in spending from unmanned ISR assets capable of operating in “permissive” environments to those that can operate in contested ones.  The Marines are also interested in unmanned systems, piloting a new unmanned Mobile Detection Assessment Response System (MDARS) in Afghanistan.  Capable of patrolling an area up to one-mile away, MDARS is capable of doing intelligence gathering duties the Marines won’t have the personnel to perform.

Implications for IT Providers

Where does this focus on unmanned ISR leave information technology providers?  In the cat-bird seat, to be honest.  The massive amount of data that unmanned systems generate has a significant knock-on effect for Defense IT spending.  So much data is produced so quickly that human beings cannot make sense out of it and yet the DoD wants to make data driven decisions.  The need to make sense out of the data automatically generates requirements for more and better storage solutions, as well as database software and advanced analytics.  Also, as the DoD seeks ways to utilize satellite-based electromagnetic bandwidth to transfer the data, its need for advanced data management products and services will only grow.

In sum, the DoD’s turn toward unmanned systems is a boon for IT providers, especially those that offer big data solutions.  Deltek recently forecast in its Defense IT: Strategy, Implementation and Challenges report that the DoD’s addressable core big data market will rise from an estimated $670 million in FY 2013 to $880 million in FY 2018.  This equates to a CAGR of 5.6%.  So, while the Defense budget may be dropping overall, there are areas of opportunity for those properly positioned to take advantage of the market and technology trends.  Big data solutions related to ISR data collected from unmanned systems is one of those growth areas.

 

Are Feds Struggling to Move to the Cloud?

A report on cloud adoption in the federal government has been getting attention recently.  Entitled The Road Ahead: Three Years after Cloud First, the survey-based report found that since the announcement of former Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra’s Cloud First initiative in 2011, federal agencies have struggled to implement cloud computing.  As evidence one slide in particular shows that “just ten percent [of agencies] have migrated more than half of their IT portfolio to the cloud.”  Common roadblocks to adoption, survey respondents said, include a lack of staff necessary to execute agency cloud strategies and a lengthy procurement process that hinders cloud adoption.

As someone who keeps a close eye on the federal cloud market, I have to admit I wasn’t surprised by the findings.  The halting nature of agency movement to the cloud has been well documented in my posts and inreports on the federal cloud market published by the Federal Industry Analysis team.  This said, however, the picture of federal cloud adoption presented in The Road Ahead shows several disconnects between the respondents and the available data.

For example, although 49% of survey respondents said they’d moved less than 10% of their IT portfolio to the cloud, 51% of respondents said that they’d moved 11% or more of their agency’s IT portfolio to the cloud.  I found this reassuring.  It tells me that agencies are moving to the cloud as quickly as they feel comfortable making the transition.  Could they move faster?  Of course, but we need to remember who we are talking about here.  Federal agencies operate within a risk-averse environment, but early cloud mandates forced them to move quickly and without well-laid plans.  A measured pace was called for and now that they are approaching cloud on a broader scale they have the opportunity to accelerate adoption.  In addition, it’s worth noting that most agencies don’t have the goal of moving 50% or more of their IT portfolio to the cloud.  In the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy published in 2011, agencies reported that, in aggregate, only 25% of the $80B in OMB-reported IT spending was even appropriate for the cloud.  So, as agencies gather momentum they’ll be able to have more informed conversations about the cloud and this is good news for industry.

Turning to the lack of staff needed to execute cloud strategy, this is a valid concern.  Hiring freezes, retirements, and staffing cuts have had an impact on agency IT operations across the board.  But this isn’t bad news for the market as agencies are turning to vendors for help.  Here at Deltek we classify cloud efforts into several categories.  These include consulting efforts we call “cloud enabling” and “cloud strategy.”  Cloud enabling efforts involve engineering/design to make systems and applications ready for migration to the cloud.  Since FY 2009 approximately 10% of the efforts we’ve identified could be classified as cloud enabling, and this doesn’t count many of the almost 300 other efforts we classify as “pure cloud,” (i.e., actual migrations or purchases of cloud-based capabilities) that include cloud enabling type work.  Add another 21 cloud strategy efforts in which vendors are assisting agencies with developing cloud strategies and what we have is a complex picture of a market in transition.

Survey respondents also mentioned a procurement bottleneck.  Here again there seems to be a disconnect between the survey responses and the data.  Without a doubt the overall IT procurement model leaves a lot to be desired.  However, contracting shops still found ways to award cloud contracts valued at more than $20 billion dollars from FY 2009 to FY 2013.

I am bullish on the prospects for the federal cloud market because the data tells me the market is growing.  To reinforce the point here are a few statistics:
  • To date, 48 agencies have acquired or are actively procuring a cloud service.  Of these 48 agencies 30 have engaged in 3 or more cloud efforts, this includes the Department of Defense and associated Military Departments.
  • 126 cloud efforts have been private cloud deployments, whether in a private government or commercial cloud.  This compares with 85 deployments in commercial clouds and 213 efforts where the deployment type could not be identified.  These statistics reinforce findings in The Road Ahead that agencies are moving mostly to private clouds.
  • Concerning how agencies are using the cloud, five areas stick out in particular:
    • 45 efforts identified have been/are for data center services, basically hosting and computing services.
    • 34 efforts have been/are for software development, essentially development and testing environments.
    • 28 efforts have been/are for email, yet this is primarily what we hear about in the media.
    • 27 efforts are for content and data management, including database hosting, content management systems, archiving, etc.
    • 25 efforts have been for cyber security purposes, including identity access management, network access management, and continuous monitoring.

The future looks bright too.  Deltek’s cloud forecast projects that the federal cloud market will grow almost threefold from $2.2 billion in FY 2014 to $6.15 billion in FY 2018 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18%.  Our data shows that agencies are actively engaging industry partners to develop cloud strategies and implement solutions that make even greater use of cloud computing in the future.  Barring any extreme setback like a massive data breach or catastrophic failure of a cloud hosting facility, I’d expect to see agencies accelerate their adoption of cloud solutions.  This can only be good news for industry and agencies alike.

 

Information Technology Provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill

After years of delay, the latest Farm Bill (H.R. 2642) is making its way through Congress. President Obama is expected to sign the bill once it clears the Senate. Officially titled the “Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013,” the legislation contains a lot more than provisions applying to agricultural subsidies and oversight. There are several information technology provisions as well that will be of interest to the contractor community. These provisions are particularly relevant to the Department of Agriculture’s use of big data analytics, which Congress is pushing the agency to use.

Ferreting Out Fraud

In 2013 the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP) paid out $17.3 billion to American farmers for crop losses due to extreme weather conditions. This amount was a record for the program and that kind of money tends to draw attention. Suspecting that fraud may account for a certain percentage of the payments being made, Section 1107 directs that the Secretary of Agriculture “use all available information and analysis, including data mining, to check for anomalies in the provision of revenue loss coverage payments.”

While this provision does not explicitly demand that the Risk Management Agency acquire data mining tools it can use to find “anomalies,” it does suggest there is a need for such tools at the RMA that industry may want to investigate. However, before anyone gets too excited and begins calling around the RMA, be aware that there is an entrenched IT provider to contend with. Presumably any investment made in response to provision 1107 would be part of the RMA’s Emerging Information Technology Architecture (EITA) efforts, which are intended to “replace mission-critical legacy financial and business systems that are at or past end-of-life and unable to meet the demands of the current Risk Management Program.” This would suggest that any data mining tools required are likely, but not guaranteed, to be procured under a $208 million IT services contract awarded to SAIC in 2011 (Contract #GST0011AJ0019).

Pine Needles in Haystacks

AG doesn’t just insure crops, it also counts trees. In an effort to get a better handle on U.S. forest inventory, Section 7401 directs the Secretary of Agriculture to revise the USDA’s strategic plan for forest inventory and analysis. The key to collecting the required data is collaboration between “the Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and United States Geological Survey to integrate remote sensing, spatial analysis techniques, and other new technologies in the forest inventory and analysis program.”

Again, it’s impossible at this point to know how the U.S. Forest Service will fulfill this requirement. FS has been working for years to upgrade its IT systems. Most of this investment takes place under the Forest Service Computer Base (FSCB) program, with work being performed by a number of industry partners. The FSCB contract I have my eye on that could be relevant to Section 7401 is #IND11PC40028, held by Snap, Inc. An 8a IT company, Snap provides computing infrastructure support to the Forest Service under this contract. Presumably, integrating data from multiple agency sources for the forest inventory program would require work on the systems for which Snap provides support. Should this not be the case, then we could see a solicitation for this requirement in FY 2014.

$55 Million to Go Organic

The final provision worth examining from an IT perspective is Section 9004 concerning organic agriculture. Section 9004 is the only provision in the Farm Bill that explicitly directs the Secretary of Agriculture to make an IT investment. Specifically, “the Secretary shall modernize database and technology systems of the national organic program” and the program will receive $11 million each fiscal year from 2014 to 2018 to get the job done. In short, the USDA will be throwing $55 million at the modernization effort, making this an effort worth keeping your eye on.

 

Army Network Modernization, Cloud Services, and the Joint Information Environment

As the Department of Defense moves toward the Joint Information Environment (JIE), it is becoming clear that the Army is leading the way.  The Navy and Marines have expressed agreement with the concept of the JIE, but each remains wary about the approach.  Despite a directive from the DoD Chief Information Officer, the Navy has resisted transitioning Defense Enterprise Email.  The Marines, meanwhile, have gone so far as to argue that the rest of the DoD should adopt their network approach because the current Marine Corps Enterprise Services (MCES) environment is already a joint environment.  Then there is the Air Force, which is slowly falling into line with the Army behind the JIE concept.
 
This leaves the Army (and the Defense Information Systems Agency) as the “tip of the spear” when it comes to building the JIE.  Why the Army has assumed this role is known only to those at the heart of the effort.  My own speculation is that the Army was chosen to lead the JIE effort because it was the Service in the direst need of network consolidation and modernization.  After more than a decade of fighting overseas, Army network capabilities in the continental U.S. had become sub-par and were open to cyber-attack from any number of directions.  This was a potential disaster waiting to happen so addressing it became priority number one.
 
The Army’s network modernization efforts to enable interoperability and enhance security began in fiscal 2011 and accelerated in FY 2012 as it pushed toward the “Network 2020” goals set out by the CIO/G-6.  These goals coincide conveniently with the goals of the JIE, including
  • Application Inventory – Planned for completion in FY 2014 and leading to the elimination of duplicate applications and consolidation of widely used apps into enterprise services.
  • Data Center Consolidation – Planned to begin in FY 2014 and continue into FY 2015 with the goal of consolidating 185 Army data centers into the DISA DECCS and a handful (# unknown) of Core Data Centers (CDCs), supplemented by Installation Processing Nodes (IPNs) for Army and DoD customers.
  • Network Consolidation – In FY 2013/2014, deploy new network equipment (i.e., Multi-Protocol Label Switching technology) to create an MPLS “cloud” that increases bandwidth, reduces latency, and enables provision of standardized capabilities.
  • Cloud-Based Enterprise Services – From FY 2014 to FY 2019 utilize some DISA-provided enterprise services like Defense Enterprise Email, but also provide a large number of enterprise services in Army Core Data Centers.
The Army and DISA’s CDCs and IPNs are expected to operate as the cloud infrastructure that the Army, Air Force, and other DoD components will use for cloud-based shared services.  But while the enterprise services to be delivered by DISA are generally well known – email, directory, unified capabilities, collaboration, etc. – less well known are the capabilities that the Army intends to procure for hosting in its cloud.  Pardon me, “Core Data Centers.”  Some of these capabilities include the following:
Competition for the ESMS is just starting, but procurement of the other capabilities should only be a matter of time.  By my count there are as many as 25 other capabilities that the Army says it will need.  I’ll be listing these capabilities in a forthcoming report on Defense IT that Deltek has scheduled for publication just before Christmas.
 
Cloud services are critical to the shape that the JIE eventually assumes.  These services will be delivered from the Core Data Centers run by DISA and by the MILDEPs, so there will be business opportunity in both places.  The opportunity in the Army for cloud providers may in fact be better than that presented by DISA’s Commercial Cloud Services procurement, even though the DISA competition gets more press.  Who knows?  Maybe it is the Army’s cloud strategy and the Navy and Air Force’s stated intent to use commercial cloud services that are the reasons why DISA found less demand across the DoD for the commercial cloud services it intended to provide.

 

Cloud Computing Efforts at the Other Defense Agencies

In last week’s post I pointed out that three federal departments in particular could be called cloud “hot spots.”  These departments were Defense (DoD), Homeland Security (DHS), and Health and Human Services (HHS) and the definition of a “hot spot” was based on the number of cloud efforts, procured, planned, or otherwise, that could be found and verified.  From the handful of reader comments I’ve received, it seems that many people have a hard time believing the DoD is a cloud hot spot.  They simply aren’t seeing the contracts or hearing much about the efforts.  When I stepped back to look at the data it surprised me too!  In this week’s post I’ll take a closer look at cloud-use trends across the Other Defense Agencies in an effort to provide insight into the topline numbers.  In next week’s post I’ll do the same for the Armed Services.

The table below shows verified cloud efforts from fiscal 2009 through fiscal 2013.  Note that the abortive Large Data Object Storage (LDOS) effort is listed here.  I’ve included it in this list because it and other efforts that may not have turned into acquisitions illustrate areas of need, regardless of whether or not they were procured.  In addition to providing the agency and project/effort name, I’ve also included the function/purpose of the effort in order to give insight into how these agencies are using cloud-based solutions.  The functional categories were determined based on available information.  Sometimes multiple functions could have applied.  In these cases the predominant intended purpose behind the effort was selected.  When detailed information was not available a function was chosen based on whatever data was available.



Based on the data the following cloud adoption trends at the Other Defense Agencies become visible:
  • Cyber Security – Five (16%) of the projects/efforts listed are related in some way to cyber security.  In other words, many Defense Agencies have identified the protection of data as a critical need that they are interested in using cloud for.  Similarly, these agencies want to develop greater understanding of how data in cloud environments is protected.
  • System Development – Four (13%) of the projects/efforts listed are related to the development of cloud systems.  This kind of work can entail either the enabling of a current system for the cloud or the design/architecting of a new cloud-based system to fulfill a need or provide a capability.
  • Data Center Services (Infrastructure) – Three (10%) of the projects/efforts listed are related to providing infrastructure.  In general this means computing infrastructure.  Two storage efforts – ESS II and the LDOS Storage project – are broken out separately, but these efforts too could be classified as IT infrastructure.  Two other efforts for “Cloud Hardware” and “Communications Infrastructure” could also be put in the category of “infrastructure.”  Doing so brings the total number of IT infrastructure related cloud projects/efforts to seven, or 23%.
When looking at the trends in the data we see that the DoD is leaning decisively toward using cloud computing to supplement its IT infrastructure.  Customers at the ODAs are also interested in cloud-based cyber security solutions and in vendor assistance cloud enabling systems.  Finally, there are a few efforts related to the creation of cloud-based testing and software development environments.  I believe these latter uses of cloud will also continue to proliferate across the DoD as Defense customers look for ways to streamline application development and reduce costs before apps are deployed.

 

 

Deltek pulse: General government services fall review

Early fall brought a flutter of procurement activity to the general government landscape. With the majority of states operating under the June-July fiscal year, late summer brought new funding, which filled September and October with solicitation releases.

Autumn’s in-demand technology is clearly enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, which are being procured across the nation, with active solicitations in Michigan, Florida, Illinois, and Hawaii.

September brought Hawaii’s highly anticipated statewide enterprise resource planning RFP, which has been quite active. Eleven addendums have been released, with the most recent announcing the solicitation being put on temporary hold after a primary project contact’s retirement. This solicitation has been in the works since early 2011 and looks like it will be 2014 before next steps are taken.

Another statewide ERP solicitation released this fall is Michigan’s procurement to replace the state’s existing financial system, known as MAIN. The state is seeking a vendor that will include hosting services, a disaster recovery site, and disaster recovery services as part of the overall effort.

On a county level, Miami-Dade County, Fla., released its enterprise resource planning implementation, integration and related services RFP in September. The county previously contracted with Oracle for an ERP system that only covered two departments – Water and Aviation. The county is expanding to a county-wide system with this procurement.

October brought an ERP system RFP release in Cook County, Illinois. This has been another highly anticipated procurement since an RFI release in February 2011. The county decided to separate the ERP system and the implementation into two separate solicitations. The system RFP is currently underway, and the implementation RFP will move forward once the county is satisfied with the software solution.

In non-ERP news, two notable statewide education RFPs were released. The Arizona Department of Education is seeking a new student information system, while Rhode Island is procuring a vendor to develop a K-12 scoring and reporting system for use with interim assessment data.

Further trending technologies include telephone systems and wireless solutions. A handful of telephone system RFPs were released, with heavy focus on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP.) The bids spanned from state to county level, to school systems. This trend seems to be cyclical as phone systems become antiquated and the desire to implement systems compatible with existing infrastructure increases.

Wireless solutions are more of a growing trend in procurement. As more technology becomes available in wireless forms, government entities are jumping at the chance to increase efficiency and convenience. Last month saw a steady increase in solicitations for wireless communication systems and wireless infrastructure upgrades.

Analyst’s Take

Vendors who can provide a robust ERP solution should be on the lookout for these and similar solicitations that may pop up through the end of the year. These systems are in high demand nationwide, and with funding for projects finally coming to fruition, vendors can expect solicitations across the states throughout the season.

The government shutdown last month may have been on a federal level, but it still affected state spending. Many states that receive government funding saw cash flows slowed or halted completely. This will directly affect projects that are funded by federal funds (such as Race to the Top) in such a way that we may see anticipated RFP releases pushed back a few months. Vendors should still expect solicitation releases before the holiday season is in full swing, but the larger, federally funded projects may be pushed to 2014.

GovWin IQ subscribers can read further about these projects in the provided links. Non-subscribers can gain access with a GovWin IQ free trial.

 

Where Are the Cloud Hot Spots?

Federal agencies’ use of vendor-provided cloud services has ramped up considerably over the last few years, providing much-needed good news in federal IT.  That agencies have been turning to the cloud at a time of fiscal constraint comes as no surprise.  After all, one of cloud computing’s early value propositions was that it could save agencies money by providing scalable, rapidly provisioned IT infrastructure they could “rent” on an as needed basis.  It took a while for risk averse federal customers to come around, but come around they have.  Now even the well-funded Intelligence Community is turning to large-scale commercial infrastructure providers like Amazon Web Services.  Reducing costs truly wins out in the end.

The federal cloud market is still evolving, but if we look closely we can see parts of it taking shape.  There are, for example, emerging “Cloud Hot Spots.”  These are agencies in the late-early stage of adoption.  They have dipped their toes in the water, liked it, and have decided to forge ahead.  Many of these hot spots are places where we are likely to see faster cloud adoption in the years ahead.

So, where are the hot spots?  Table 1 below shows the top 10 agencies in terms of number of verified cloud projects.  These are our pioneers in the technology wilderness.

 
Table 1

There are some surprising names on this list, like the Department of Defense.  How could the DoD be considered a cloud pioneer when it has struggled to reconcile the cloud approach with data security?  The answer is that various DoD components, particularly the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), but also the U.S. Transportation Command and Special Operations Command, have all dabbled in cloud computing in one way or another.  Common projects across the DoD have included systems engineering to enable cloud use, using cloud for testing environments, and even application hosting.

Keep in mind that Table 1 shows only the top 10 agencies by number of efforts.  The picture changes a bit when it comes to total awarded contract value (TCV).  As Table 2 shows, on a TCV basis the DoD takes a backseat to smaller agencies like Interior and its multiple award $10 billion ceiling Foundation Cloud Hosting Services contract vehicle.
 
Table 2

The Department of Homeland Security remains in second place with over $6 billion in cloud contracts awarded.  Now, with its Next Generation: Enterprise Computing Services procurement coming in FY 2014, cloud use and brokering at DHS is poised to accelerate rapidly.

Looking ahead, the promise of cloud investment at just these ten departments suggests an exceptional business opportunity.  The Department of Health and Human Services intrigues me in particular.  It is such a massive, uncoordinated department that there are multiple well-springs of cloud adoption.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is already ahead of most of the department when it comes to cloud adoption.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is not far behind.  If HHS does not adopt an enterprise approach based on a single, consolidated contract vehicle like Interior’s FCHS or DHS’ pending NG: ECS program, it could be a lush, green field for cloud vendors.

Finally, what blog post would be complete without a shameless plug?  These charts are just a sample of the kind of data available in our new report entitled “Federal Update: Cloud, Data Center, Big Data, and Mobility, 2013-2018.” The Federal Update report contains the most detailed and comprehensive examination of the federal cloud and big data markets that is currently available.  It also includes an excel database of more than 400 cloud contract awards and upcoming opportunities that you won't find anywhere else.  If you want hard data on the state of the federal cloud market, this report is for you.

 

 

Chasing Army Advanced Computing Investments

Since the end of the government shutdown last week Army officials have been out and about sounding their frustration about the impact that sequestration is having on Army programs and troop readiness.  Full public venting of their concerns came out at the 2013 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.  Army Secretary McHugh and Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno stated that many of the Army’s modernization programs are in serious danger from budget cuts.  Army acquisition chief, Heidi Shyu stated, however, that some investment will continue in the Army’s Science and Technology (S&T) portfolio.  Rickey Smith, Director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center—Forward, provided further details, noting that the Army’s S&T investment strategy focuses on human performance, advanced computing, and material sciences.  It is the advanced computing piece of this equation that I’ll dig into in today’s post.
 
Advanced computing investments fall under the Army’s Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) budget request.  For Fiscal 2014 these investments include one project called simply “Advanced Computing,” and two other projects that include advanced computing elements.  These other projects are “Power Electronics, Hybrid Electric, and On-Board Vehicle Power (OBVP) Components” and “Command and Control (C2) On-The-Move (OTM) Enabling Technologies.”
 
Looking over the “Advanced Computing (AC)” project description it seems clear that this is a big data applied research project with the goal of investigating “computing and networking architectures, algorithms, [and] visualization for advanced C4I battle command applications.”  AC has been underway for a couple of years and in FY 2014 the planned investment is $3.75 million.  Planned activity centers on “exploring uncertainty quantification based mathematical approaches to assist the verification and validation methodologies.”  The program will require the vendor to work closely with the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center (CERDEC) and Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) to develop “scalable programming models and software developed for [the] tactical computing concept.”
 
As for the planned OBVP investment, this project focuses on developing next generation portable power sources for vehicle platforms to enable the use of on-board advanced computing and other power-hungry technologies.  The work required entails laboratory testing of proposed solutions to investigate the viability of “high temperature power electronics compared to traditional power electronics for power generation.”  Requested funding for this project in FY 2014 amounts to $2.41 million.
 
Lastly, the C2 OTM investment “investigates, designs, and codes software to improve the Warfighter's ability to access, use, present, and understand relevant mission command information.”  The effort focuses on developing “software and algorithms to increase unmanned platform autonomy and improve multi-platform autonomous collision avoidance” to improve mission command capabilities.  The planned investment for this project in FY 2014 is $9.95 million.  Presumably the industry partner would be required to work with PEO Command, Control, and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) on this effort.
 
None of these investment amounts is staggeringly large, but in today’s fiscal environment every cent counts.  If the Army says these are areas where spending will continue, then vendors are well advised to follow the breadcrumb trail.  Further research did not turn up any contract opportunities specifically related to these investments so there is hope that competitions for contracts are still pending.  Those interested should be aware that at least some of this work could be related to contract #W15P7T13D0054 awarded to DRS Technologies in June 2013 for Production of the Mounted Family of Computer Systems (M-FOCS) Hardware.  There is a software component to the DRS contract, but for the most part it appears to be a hardware-focused effort.

 

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