Cloud Trends: Feds Buy Communications and Collaboration Solutions

Published: June 25, 2014

Cloud ComputingCommunications ServicesInnovationUnified Communications

Federal agencies are increasingly buying cloud-based communications and collaboration solutions, including email, SharePoint portals, video conferencing, and even telephony. As agency transport infrastructures evolve toward more mature Internet Protocol based states, the use of cloud solutions for communications requirements is likely to grow making cloud-based communications offerings a worthwhile part of vendor portfolios.

Having blogged extensively about Defense cloud computing and the Defense Information Systems Agency over the last month or so, I thought I’d change tack this week and examine the use of cloud based communications and collaboration tools across the federal government.  Communications and collaboration solutions, what I like to call C2S, are today the most common cloud-based capabilities bought by federal customers.  This may change in the future, of course.  For now, however, C2S procurements rule the cloud roost, making it worth diving into the composition of the market to derive insight on the solutions being used.

Everyone has heard by now that replacing email systems is usually the first foray most federal agencies make into the cloud.  Large contract awards to Microsoft and Google receive a lot of media attention.  C2S, however, involve a lot more than just email systems.  The chart below shows the distribution of 52 C2S procurements over the last four and a half fiscal years by solution type.  As we can see, email procurements make up the majority of solutions procured.  So far so good, right?


Appearances can be deceptive.  Readers will notice that email solutions are part of a larger category described as “Bundled Comms.”  The reason I’ve used this term is to denote that agencies rarely buy cloud-based email upgrades alone.  Instead, they tend to buy integrated solutions that include email as the primary capability.  Often these bundled solutions also include chat, presence, and even telephony; capabilities that are typically part of unified communications solutions.  The only reason I haven’t referred to them as UC is that some of the solutions in this category are purely email.  Splitting hairs aside, the point is that agencies are buying cloud-based bundled communications solutions within which email is but one of many capabilities.

Other cloud-based solutions agencies are buying include SharePoint, video teleconferencing, communications infrastructure, and telephony.  The communications infrastructure category includes Wide Area Networks (WANs) at the Department of Health and Human Services and scalable capacity communications infrastructure for DISA headquarters and remote locations.  The balance of procurements center on automated information and data sharing solutions utilized for a variety of purposes.

What’s making all of this possible is the gradual transition of agency communications infrastructures to Internet Protocol-based transport networks.  At some agencies this process is mature, at others not so much.  The takeaway is that as Everything-over-IP becomes more common so will the use of cloud solutions.  Migrating to the cloud is not only a matter of developing the business case and identifying the capability to be used, it is also laying the transport infrastructure enabling the use of cloud solutions.  Therefore, the evolution of IP-based transport infrastructure should promote increased use of the cloud across the federal government, meaning it’s only a matter of time before capabilities delivered via the cloud become dominant in federal IT.