VA Reaches for the Cloud

Published: April 13, 2016

Cloud ComputingVA

In early April, VA launched a major move to adopt cloud computing technologies by releasing an RFI for Enterprise Cloud Services (ECS).

The RFI entitled VA Enterprise Cloud Services for Information Technology Infrastructure Modernization appeared on FedBizOpps on April 4th. VA’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) stated that it “requires the ability to efficiently acquire secure cloud computing services on an ongoing basis. The objective is to acquire an enterprise cloud services broker (ECSB) to manage a portfolio of cloud computing services across multiple cloud service provider offerings, supplying VA with a flexible solution for the delivery of cloud computing services.

The 40 page draft Statement of Objectives (SOO) outlined four main objectives: 

  • Implement Enterprise Cloud Services - Identify, leverage and establish cloud services through FedRAMP accredited "as a Service" solutions such as: Infrastructure, Platform, Software, and Storage. 
  • Network Modernization and Convergence - Modernize, upgrade and re-engineer the VA network infrastructure, to include on-going operations, maintenance, sustainment, and administration.  
  • Unified Communications (UC) - Converge all electronic communications onto a single, IP-based enterprise network that seamlessly accommodates all voice, video, data, and collaboration traffic establishing a unified communications capability for all the VA end-users and extending to veterans. 
  • Data Center Consolidation & Hosting - Provide cloud services and mechanisms that enable consolidation of VA's existing data centers to a target state (and number) that promotes cost savings, reduction of assets, standardization, and operational efficiency without compromising availability, reliability, business continuity, and security.

VA is also in the midst of initiating a contract for cloud storage and email as a service, according to a remarks by VA CIO, LaVerne Council, at a March hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on information technology.

The move to the cloud is part of Council’s “buy first” strategy, in particular implementing cloud will reduce complexity and simplify VA’s IT portfolio. Also, increased use of cloud services will be key to VA’s data center consolidation/optimization plans.

According to Deltek’s internal cloud tracking database, VA awarded 48 cloud contracts between FY 2012 and the end of FY 2015, making it the 5th heaviest user of cloud solutions. VA’s T4 contract vehicle has been central to VA’s cloud computing spending. Fourteen contracts were awarded through VA T4, 11 via GSA’s Schedule 70, and 9 via SEWP IV.

Somewhat contradictory to the publicized VA cloud plans mentioned above, the ITDashboard shows VA anticipates spending a total of only $5 million on cloud investments in FY 2017, an 81% decrease from FY 2016.  According to dashboard data, the reduction is a result of a $20 million decrease on the Interagency 21st Century One Vet program to $0 in FY 2017 which was all classified as cloud spending. All of VA’s FY 2017 cloud investments are categorized as IaaS and private cloud.

I suspect the FY 2017 VA IT budget was submitted prior to the formulation of the new cloud strategy.  Actual FY 2016 and FY 2017 cloud spending is likely to be much higher than what is currently indicated on the ITDashboard.

Responses to the ECS RFI are due by April 18th with an RFP expected later in FY 2016. Ron Thompson is leading the cloud effort within VA’s OIT.